I awake in terror. A scream. The gaping mouth of an empty cot. Oh no oh no oh no. Blind with dread. Running slowly like through water. My husband on the front porch, grabbing back my child. Giddy with wild relief and shock.
Just a dream. I struggle to claw my way out of it. It coats me, thick and viscous as tar. I’m hot and trembly and I can’t seem to settle. I see the wan face of the mother of a missing child, fronting up to the media scrum. I see the mothers of those boys in Bali – about to be shot for smuggling drugs a decade ago. I see the mothers who have lost a child in the most horrifying of circumstances – in Pakistan, Nigeria, Iraq. Often I look away, I distance myself from their situation because I don’t want to taste their grief. How else do you deal with the tsunami of horror and heartache incessantly lapping the edges of your consciousness? This time I can’t look away. For the briefest moment, I feel something of what it is to lose a child. Mothers all. And I wonder how they endure.
In the morning my little boy toddles down the hall to find me, peering into each room he passes and declaring, “not there!” I crouch down at the end of the hallway, just out of sight. I grab him up as he rounds the corner, smother him with kisses, breathe in his morning smell as he giggles and wriggles in my arms. My heart aches with thankfulness that he is safe.
Because truthfully I can’t presume to know what it feels like to lose a child. Unlike so many mothers around the world, I have the great luxury of waking from my nightmare. And yet, far too often I take it all for granted and allow myself to parent from a place of distraction, half-heartedness. Too often I allow dissatisfaction to creep in and colour the way I interact with my children. Yet how can I be anything but satisfied when they are safe? Today I feel anew the gift and the charge of loving my children well.