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Lisa Belkin

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The Bizarre Nightmares Of Parenting

Posted: 07/16/2012 1:59 pm

The dream is always the same. My sons are infants. Or sometimes they are small cute animals, like ferrets or chinchillas. I am trying to get all of us packed and on a trip, but things keep disappearing from the suitcases. I keep losing my boys too, in whatever mammal form they have taken at the moment. Missing the plane (or the boat, or the taxi) will be a catastrophe. I don't know why, but I am certain in my dream that it will.

When I am awake, of course, my boys are taller than I am, and very hard to lose. And while they are cute, and somewhat furry, they are definitely human. In reality I also love to travel, and have never actually missed a plane. So what is this dream about?

Parenting brings actual nightmares. Researchers tell us that this starts before a child is born, with 59 percent of pregnant women having anxiety-dreams compared with 42 percent of those who had not had a child. And after the baby arrives it gets worse -- a 2007 study found that three-quarters of new mothers dream of things like dropping, losing or hurting their infant.

It's not just mothers, though. I know men have these, too. Writer Peter Hartlaub wrote about his, for instance, on the San Francisco Chronicle's parenting blog earlier this year.

For most of his life, he wrote, he had the typical "didn't know where my classes were, didn't know the combination to my locker, and had not attended at least one of the classes in months" dreams. But when he turned 34 and became a father "everything changed. My anxiety dreams became different, and much stranger."

His was that he couldn't stop cursing and both his wife and various authorities were threatening to take his children as a result. His layman's interpretation was that "the dream might be tied to my fear that someone is going to falsely accuse me of abusing my children."

Or maybe, he wrote, "it's a simple fear of my children getting older. I may not be in actual danger of losing my kids to the swearing police, but in effect, I'm losing them a little bit each day."

Maybe mine is about the same thing. Of "losing" my son's as they grow, and fearing that I haven't gotten them started on the right path. That I haven't packed their metaphorical suitcases properly.

Or maybe I have a subconscious love of ferrets and fear of luggage.

What are your parenting anxiety dreams? What do you think they mean?

 

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