In the dream, I am sweating in a paddy wagon, parked outside with tons of street noise making it hard to hear, on a black corded telephone, talking to an investigator who is questioning me about why my child and I were exiting the library through a window in a storage closet with a contraband Berenstain Bears book. I’ve been caught red-handed heaving my kid up onto the high window ledge with the book, while inexplicably also trying to juggle coffee and a half-eaten egg sandwich. The librarian who happened to go in the closet and discovered us was flabbergasted that I, a pillar of the community, was doing such a thing. A lengthy explanation of how it wasn’t on the shelf and the project is due tomorrow and the catalog said maybe a non-circulating copy was in this closet followed. When she asks why I didn’t just get a copy at Barnes and Noble, I have no answer. I didn’t think of that. Also, this is the fourth kid I’ve helped to illegally borrow this book from the library, and honestly, sneaking out of the window is kind of fun. I wake up before finding out if they let me go free, lock me up or what.
OK, I was an English major, so I can totally unpack this dream for its allegorical representation of parenting ethics, how one must beware of helping your child too much with schoolwork especially if one is a nerd and thinks schoolwork is fun . . . that there is always a third choice within a dialectical dilemma . . . the half-eaten egg sandwich represents the multi-tasking and self-denial of parenting, etc. I can also say that You Might Be Neurotic if you have this kind of dream instead of a nice straight-up dream about bacon. Guilty. This is just the latest in a long series of recurring parenting dreams for me. I think this is the “parent of adults and teens dream.” Getting reprimanded for helping them steal a children’s book represents the need for me as a parent to let them go and solve their own problems. (Once you press the English Major button, you can’t stop the flow of insights, people).
When the kids were younger, I had this recurring dream: I’ve got all the kids at the mall and I’m attempting to herd them from the Food Court to Kohl’s so I can replace their pants which are six inches too short, again. I’m holding a half-eaten hot pretzel (symbolic parental self-sacrifice, again!) Suddenly one of the kids breaks free and begins running toward the glass rail that separates this floor of the mall from the faux marble floor twenty feet below. I’m yelling at Kid to stop but Kid barrels on, disobeying me. The glass rail dissolves and Kid plummets halfway to certain death as we all scream, whereupon I wake up in a cold sweat. Not too hard to analyze that one: the feeling of powerlessness and lack of control over my kids I so often felt as a young parent. I definitely like the Berenstain Bears Busting dream better. As I improve at parenting, I must be getting more skilled at this neurotic parenting dream thing as well.
Am I the only dreaming parent? I would love to hear your recurrent parenting dreams in the comments below or on the Real Parent Facebook page. Given how important parenting is to us, I’m guessing there are some good ones out there. In the context of this article, I send you this wish: may none of your parenting dreams come true.