Every couple of weeks, I have a dream that wakes me from the deepest of sleeps. It is a dream that both confirms the deep love that I have for my children, and illustrates just how vulnerable we are as parents.
The dream varies which child is involved and what exactly they are doing, however, the outcome and effect it has on me is always the same. It is an outcome that is so strong emotionally for me that it actually affects me physically.
Knots in my stomach, sweat on my forehead, and a deep hot burning sensation that seems to run from my chest, up through my neck, and down into my arms. It is such an overwhelming feeling that I am unable to fall asleep until it subsides.
On Monday, it was Alani who woke me.
Sweet little Alani who seems to find fun in the little things and who is becoming less dependant on her sisters for attention. She can entertain herself for hours with a single doll, coloring book, or even a basket of clothes she dives in and out of trying on different outfits.
It was Alani's new-found independence that took her away from me in my dream.
In the dream, it was a Sunday afternoon and Kern was spending the weekend with us. Like it has been so often lately, it was a hot Southern California afternoon. All four girls were playing in the front yard, while I was in the garage looking through boxes of books.
My girls were alternating from taking turns on the scooter, to digging in the flower garden, and to drawing on the sidewalk with chalk. The laughter that came from the yard was so pure and innocent.
There are some sounds in life that I just want to be able to hear when I want to hear them. Waves crashing, a stream running over rocks high in the mountains, the roar of the crowd after my football team scores, and my children's laughter.
The moment of serenity was interrupted with, "Dad, can the girls and I go in and get something to drink?" Kern said. "It is hot and we are thirsty."
"Sure. Do you need my help?"
"No, Dad. I am 10, not two."
With that, she ran back into the front yard and headed into the house with her sisters. After a few minutes, I went in and saw them in the kitchen as I carried a handful of books up into the living room.
When I got done putting the books away, I went to the kitchen to see what kind of mess was being made by four girls under 11. Only problem was, there was only three girls in the kitchen.
"Where is Alani?" I asked.
"She said she wasn't thirsty. She is still drawing on the sidewalk."
We live on a street that is like a cul-de-sac, a circle of houses with only one entrance to go in and out. However, I still don't like the idea of a 4-year-old out in front by herself, so I hurried outside.
She was gone... not in the garage, not on the scooter, not coloring the sidewalk, and not in the flower garden. Everywhere I looked, she wasn't there.
This is where dream world meets real world.
I am never able to see the outcome of what happens to my girls in dreams like this one. I don't know if it is because I won't let myself see it, or it's the fight or flight response taking over as I spring up in an upright position on the bed and look around the room for any sign that it was only a dream.
Confirmation never takes long. However, the fear and anxiety of losing one of my daughters stays with me.
On nights that I have my girls, I have to go check on them as they sleep. Just watching them breath and hearing them snore calms me and I able to return to bed. On nights I don't have them; I have to believe they are Ok and will be back with me in a day or two.
Anything to stop the dream.