Friday, July 11, 2014

Dream On

My daughter is a slow riser like me.  She often crawls into my bed, still groggy, retreating from the joyous singing of her brother, a morning person.  As we snuggle, she eventually wakes up enough to ask, "Wanna know what I dreamed?"  And of course I do.  Her dreams are vibrant and detailed, and I'm always amazed at how much she remembers.  My dreams usually vanish as I open my eyes.  When I recently had to keep a dream journal for a class, I realized that the majority of my dreams are focused on anxiety (at least the ones I remember).  I am losing teeth, getting lost in narrow passageways, and running late trying to get somewhere (sometimes without any clothes on).  Her dreams are ones of connection and beauty.  She describes colors and storylines with multiple layers.  They are silly and sweet and usually about the two of us spending time together (although sometimes we take the form of fish or unicorns).  There are plot twists and happy endings, and the retelling takes longer than I imagine the dream actually lasted.  She is my artist, my imaginative storyteller, painting pictures with her words.  Each night when we say our prayers, the kids put in their requests for specific dreams, a wish list to God to fill their slumber with visions of Harry Potter, mermaids, and puppies.  The requests are often answered, and I shouldn't be surprised as the Bible points out that God is in the business of dreams.

My girl is full of dreams even in her waking hours.  She keeps an evolving list of what she wants to be when she grows up: a vet, a pet store owner, an artist, an author/illustrator, a mommy.  She wants to juggle all of these careers at once while driving her pick-up truck (which she has imagined down to the finest detail).  Once she gets an idea in her head it's impossible to shake, so we are off on a search for a watch with purple flowers and a pink band or mermaid sunglasses.  Shopping for clothes is often a nightmare as the selections don't always match the clothing she has designed in her mind.

She has yet to learn that our dreams don't always match reality, and that's a lesson that I don't want her to have to experience.  But it seems that is what growing up is about.  We shed our dreams and pick up more manageable goals.  We surrender fantasy and imagination for a dose of the practical.  It's been a constant tension for me--how do I nurture her spirit while also helping her to develop the coping skills for when things don't go according to her plans?  How can I recapture my own sense of wonder and dreaming so that we can share the beauty of the world as she sees it?

It's interesting (and probably not a coincidence) that much of what I'm reading these days talks about the necessity of play for us all, and the intersection between play and spirituality.  Stuart Brown and Brené Brown both speak on the importance of spending regular time doing things that appear meaningless.  That's counter-cultural in our world that teaches that success is all about doing, and the measure of our importance is how busy we are.  Who has time for play?  But to my children, everything is play.  How many times do I implore them to stop playing around in the bathroom and brush their teeth?  How often do I tell them we don't have time to play around, we have things we need to do?

But perhaps they are on the right track and I'm the one who needs to wake up.

Scripture says that unless we change and become like little children we will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).  And I think, maybe that's what people mean when they say to cherish these times, that I will miss these days of my kids being little.  I get so frustrated thinking that I'm not succeeding in teaching them all they need to know, but maybe it's the other way around.  Maybe I'm not letting them teach me all they know.  What am I missing out on by thinking that my way is the real truth that they need to embrace?  Perhaps the truth is that the kingdom of heaven is here in their wonder and joy, in their faith that things will be taken care of, in their certainty that they are loved and special, in their belief that God is with them and cares about their dreams.

What would my dreams be if I truly lived like that?

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