I think nightmares might be genetic.

I have them. Wyatt has them.

And now it looks as though Daphne has them.

I wish there were a way to keep certain traits from filtering through to my kids. Easily sunburned skin. Square bite. Nightmares.

Nightmares I would definitely keep to myself. And the accompanying teeth clenching, the headaches, and that strangeness that I feel well into the next morning that I just can't seem to shake.

I hate that this may be a gift that my genes might be bestowing upon my little MonkeyFish and sweet Hummingbird.

Yet last night Daphne kept waking from slumber with a heartbroken cry. And when she would hear my voice at the edge of her crib, my usually independent daughter would reach out and cling to my arm, my clothing, my hair until I'd pick her up and she'd burrow her face into my chest and then - finally then - quiet to my hushing voice.

And I can't stand it.

How can I fight off the monsters in her mind? How can I protect her from this?

I am helpless.

And a voice inside me snorts and says, "yeah, well. Get used to it."

And the all too familiar internal battle commences, where I stubbornly demand that I can do everything, and Reality laughs in my face.

And in the echo of that laughter I come face to face with it.

I can't protect them.
From any of it.
I am helpless.

Reality sidles in next to me with a smug grin and says, "You're going to have to let it go."

"I can't."

Reality sighs and inspects its nails. "You won't win this. Every Mother tries, and every Mother fails. Your children will get hurt in this world. Nightmares will become real. It will break your heart. And you will give them everything - everything that you are - in an effort to protect them. And then they will leave you."

Reality makes it sound harsh and cruel, but within Reality's words I detected my old friend: Truth. In my experience, Truth can be harsh - but is never cruel. In my mind, I saw Wyatt and Daphne as teenagers, teasing each other and rolling their eyes at me. I saw them leave home for college, coming home now and again to raid my pantry and enjoy a home cooked meal (and the $20 their father always slips them as they hug him goodbye). I saw them get jobs, get married, get mortgages. Have children of their own, and have their own conversations with Truth and Reality. And I saw me stand there, old and grey and spent - with my wrinkled hand pressed into Bill's and with empty rooms in our house - but with a heart filled with the righteous and consuming fire of Mother's Pride.

And I know it's only my imagination at this point, but from what I can tell? Mother's Pride totally trumps Empty Nest.

"They will leave," Truth said gently, firmly. "Because it is the right thing to do."

So, yes. Someday they will leave. A day will come when I will have to let go. It will be good, and I will be sad.

But right now I have this warm bundle hugged against me, warm breath on my neck, held up with these two arms. Needing me.

I may not be able to stop the nightmares. But I can be there when they come. 

Reality shifted uncomfortably, sensing my calm. "You have to let go," he said again with deadly precision.

Daphne shuddered in her sleep, settling into my shoulder. I pressed my lips to her hair, breathing her in.

"I know," I said. "But not yet."


Charms said...

You are such a lovely writer. I love reading your blogs, even if they make me cry...

Daphne is so beautiful!

Miss ya

That Girl said...

Why aren't you famous?

Carolyn said...

That makes me so sad for little Daphne! Tyler gets night terrors sometimes too, and it's horrible to see your little one go through that. Especially when there is nothing you can do about it!

Nae said...

Oh, I sure hope my nightmares aren't genetic. But in any case, I'll always be there for my children when their nightmares (real or in their minds) become too much for them. That's how my parents were for me, and I want to be that way for my precious children too.

Beautifully said, Stepper. I love your posts. :)

Tamsin said...

I don't think that
Daphne should have nightmares.

Please ask her
to stop.

She is breaking my heart
from across the parking lot.