The thing about glitter is if you get it on you, be prepared to have it on you forever. Glitter is the herpes of craft supplies.
Demetri Martin

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Helping me Dream

Every night as we tuck her into bed, my daughter asks us to help her dream.  This has been happening for some time now, though I'm not entirely sure how it all got started.  Perhaps it came about on a particularly difficult night in the midst of last winter's germ fest that called for extra soothing measures.  Maybe it was the result of loneliness on my part following a long slew of 12 hour shifts away from my family.  But never fail, come bedtime we are not allowed to leave Big Squirt's room without 'helping her dream'.

As is the case in many aspects of family life, desperate times call for desperate measures, and none is so desperate as bedtime with small kids.  Well maybe mealtime, but that's another post!  Bedtime for a young family is akin to desperate times as wet is to ... soggy diapers (lame, I know).  Accordingly, when it comes to bedtime, parents will often do whatever it takes to ensure success.  And most of us have learned that when you find something that works, keep it up.

The Little Prince, Antoine Ste Exupery, 1943

Usually, 'helping her dream' consists of My Sweetest or I recounting a memory from our childhood in response to her request that we 'tell me when you was a kid'.  She doesn't require much - tonight I told her about the cat we had when I was a little girl, vicious beast.  She particularly thrives on the authenticity of our stories; it seems to excite her to see us relive the small and seemingly insignificant details of our lives.  I think it helps her get to know us better, allowing her to ask questions that occur to her - 'Did the cat bite?' - and observing our intrinsic responses - cringe 'Yes.' 

It's especially intriguing when she asks me something logical about the story I'm telling her and I realize that I don't know the answer.  In many ways, these 'helping me dream' stories transport us back to our childhood, to a time when developmental immaturity prohibited us from fully understanding the world around us.  We find ourselves recounting events with these consequential limitations, simultaneously trying to subscribe logical bearing on something we were unable to experience from a logical perspective.  When she asks me why I've described one of my teachers as "cranky", I am tempted to respond by saying that the lady looked like a dragon and that this would make anyone feel cranky.  Hence, my immediate response is reflective of the feelings the story generates in my memory, and though perhaps not actually voiced in my daughter's presence, these emotions have bearing on the emotional authenticity of the story.  It is this authenticity that I feel my daughter is seeking, not the diplomatic explanation that being a teacher of small children is trying and important work.

The Little Prince, Antoine Ste Exupery, 1943

Our childhood is much more exciting when we get to remember it with our own children.  It sort of puts us in their place and takes us back to a time when everything was bigger, more extreme and packed a larger punch; a time of justifiable dichromatic thinking and blissful ignorance.  For me, this nightly routine has worked to resurface the severity of childhood, renewing my sense of appreciation for the degree of impact a child's world can have on their perspectives and development.  Suddenly your child fearing the sounds of the cars driving by her bedroom window or her infatuation with freckles seems less flippant.  With all due respect, the persuasions, anxieties and inclinations that occupy much of a child's mind have a much higher degree of significance than credited by overly logical and well intentioned parents.  And teachers that look like dragons.

Regardless of what any of this may or may not actually mean, helping my daughter dream is a nightly ritual that I have come to cherish.  The ensuing sense of nostalgia combined with the wonder in my daughters' eyes shines through the pre-slumber yawns and brings warmth to my heart.  And while I don't recall how it all started, I hope that it continues for a very long time.


Susan (The Silver Hook) said...

When I was very young, I always had Dad tell me "kid stories" of either when he was young, or when I was even younger. Sometimes they repeated, but they are some of my fondest and earliest memories.

Thank you for your post.

Sonia at The Third Street Studio said...

I love this ritual and I love that she offered to help Aster dream when she helped me put her to bed when we first got home.


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