When we have children, we invite so much fear into our lives.
It’s worth it. It’s part of the deal. But we willingly place fear and anxiety into parts of our lives where once there was none. It’s kind of like the way we seek out fear and anxiety by watching a horror movie, but instead of 90 minutes, it’s 18 or so years of edge-of-your-seat tension. This is parental horror.
There are so many ways in which this fear can manifest itself. In some, it causes parents to be anxious and overprotective. It makes some pile on the helmets or walk their kids across the street well into their teens.
In me, it causes nightmares. Like this doozy.
A few nights ago, I dreamt that I had to retrieve my youngest daughter from the inside of an alligator that was in my home, swimming under the carpet. As they do.
Recounting a dream is tough stuff. Stick with me as I try to convey the horror and not get mired in the weird, indescribable nuance of a dream environment. I promise, it will be edited for utmost clarity. Except for this part. This doesn’t count.
An unknown woman is screaming at me that the gator ate my daughter. We have to find it and get her back! Time is of the essence. But we’re in a house. Where could it have gone? Then I see carpet curling at the edges near the walls and the loose edges bobbing along with the movement of water beneath.
Found it. The secret swamp underneath my carpet. (Wait, is this dream really about my dire need to replace our carpeting? Maybe so.)
I then see something moving underneath the carpet and away from me. The gator.
I pull back the carpet and see it. It isn’t very big, thankfully. But it has my little one. I need to hurry.
I pull it out of the water and wrestle it to the top of the carpet. I hold it down behind its head. I don’t know if this move is a legit gator wrestling move, but it’s what I did. That woman is still screaming. It’s all very intense.
I see a bulge in the middle of the gator’s back. I put my foot at the back of the bulge and simultaneously press my foot down and forward up the gator’s back towards its mouth. You know, like a big reptilian tube of toothpaste.
Ok, that’s the end of the silliness. This part is horrifying.
My daughter gets squeezed out of the gator’s mouth and onto the disgusting, swampy carpet. I cry out in relief and scoop her up, holding her at arms length and eye-level, assessing her for injuries. The gator slithers back into the swamp underneath the carpet.
She isn’t her real-life, 7-year-old self. Instead, she is a huge, bald baby. She isn’t crying, but her eyes are wide with terror and darting all over the room. She is panting, and her mouth is frozen into a terrible grimace.
The worst part is her arms. They are nubs, much too small for her body, with rounded, white little bones sticking out of the skin at the end of the nubs. My dream brain concludes that this is because she has been partially digested.
But she’s alive. I got her back. Then I wake up.
What the actual fuck?
The Root of Parental Horror
I don’t think anyone needs a psychology degree to figure out why I have these dreams. I am scared of something happening to my kids. I need to protect them and be on the lookout for hidden
My youngest daughter is the subject of most of my parental nightmares. I titled this post “part 1” because there are a few more nightmares that I can’t shake and plan to examine here. I can usually pinpoint what has influenced the setting or “theme” of a particular dream, but that doesn’t make the manifestation of these fears any less disturbing.
That said, I haven’t lost a child. That’s the real nightmare, and my heart breaks for those that can’t wake up to a normal day.
My subconscious will never let me slide into complacency; disaster can strike at anytime. Right off the bat, I can think of several freak accidents that took children from their watchful, loving parents, but I don’t think I could parade their tragedies across the page in this context.
The decision to be a parent brings us these terrors, and we willingly receive them so long as we can confine them to the realm of dreams.
Here’s hoping that you only dream of puppies and ice cream. Until next time.