Dear Friends,

If you read this essay about how Mr. Mom got his gig, you know I suffer from nightmares about losing my children.

When Kate was two, I lost her at a water park. When Parker was six, I lost him at a Florida resort. Both times, my kids were gone only a short while (about 15 minutes) and were returned unharmed. But if you are a parent and were ever unintentionally separated from your child, you know the horror of what I’m talking about. In my case, it really did scar my psyche. And I don’t say that to be dramatic (although I’m not above saying things to be dramatic; I’m a writer, after all). Combine the trauma of losing track of your child with run-of-the-mill working-mother guilt, and it’s no surprise I have nightmares. Recurring nightmares.

I had one two nights ago, this time about Kate, but with a couple of new twists. I was home at night and she was out. She needed a ride home and for some reason she didn’t have one and I didn’t go after her. (By the way, isn’t it funny how there are always unknown reasons for implausible situations in dreams?) She decided to walk the very long way home. The wait was interminable and my fear kept escalating. Just as I was about to panic, she walked in the door. I was sick with guilt that I hadn’t gone after her, but so relieved she made it home safe and sound.

The twists on this dream are that 1) Kate was her current age rather than being a child, and 2) she appeared before I woke up panicked and nauseous. The dream was enough of a jolt that I didn’t go back to sleep for more than two hours (ugh!) but, still, I was amazed that I had a nightmare where my endangered son or daughter actually turned up safe. (By the way, if Kate was safe, does that make it a dream instead of a nightmare?)

I have a friend who is brilliant at interpreting dreams. (K, if you’re reading this, give me a call and let’s discuss!) I’m not brilliant at it, but I can’t help but think this dream was a very good sign.

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m shedding irrational fear. Or that I’ve released some measure of unnecessary working-mother guilt. Or that there’s a limit on how many times a poor mother can wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night and I finally, mercifully, reached my limit (ie: my subconscious brain has learned a coping technique).

Or maybe it’s that my children are growing up and getting increasingly good at making choices and managing themselves in this world.

Or maybe it’s all of the above.  I vote for all of the above, don’t you?

With gratitude {for dreams with happy endings and kids who are doing just fine},

Joan, who could tell you more than one doozy of a story about her dreams — including one about an “affair” with Bill Clinton in the back of a limousine and one about harvesting flowers from her derriere — but is afraid if she says too much you’ll brand her a wack-job

I know what you’re thinking. How in the world did that woman lose not one but both of her children?! I have no answer for you except: it happens. To the best of us and to the worst of us. You will never, ever catch me saying an unkind word about mothers who lose track of their little ones. My heart always breaks for parents whose children are abducted and they live on, burdened by an unimaginable guilt. And I’m guessing you won’t be surprised to hear that I vividly remember the day Elizabeth Smart was found. I was driving to work and I was so overcome by the news report I pulled over and sobbed in my car for 10 minutes.  Talk about a happy ending!