This morning Spider-boy is indignant. Indignant, and confused, and beginning, I think, to get a bit upset. I’ve emerged downstairs after a catch-up lie in at 8.45 am. Both boys are in the playroom immersed in a reacreation of Cars 2 in which the smallest is crawling around, puking in the cracks in the floorboards, and remaining hopeful that one day be may be allowed to touch the key players Lightning McQueen and a spy car whose name we can’t remember.
Spider-boy and Daddy have been chatting and even though I’ve had no coffee it is becoming clear I am supposed to have a response, possibly to something to do with The BFG which we’ve started to read at bedtime. We’re reading it at Spider-boy’s request although he’s not quite old enough to understand there’s a third person narrator commenting occasionally on the action. ‘Who said that?’ he demands when Dahl interjects with a direct challenge to the reader. He can cope with Sophie, good old inquisitive and darling, straight-talking Sophie. And he’s putting the effort in for the titular giant and his glorious befuddlement of muddlifried words. But the author? Him too? This all knowing God voice is just too much.
But no. We aren’t in (big friendly) giant country now. We are in the playroom. And Spider-boy is expecting me to join in. The trouble is, for once, I don’t understand what he wants me to say. He isn’t angry, but he’s beginning to twitch.
‘Do you remember my dream last night Mummy?’ he asks for the third time.
Still a quarter asleep, I imagine he is muddling his verbs and personal pronouns. I say:
‘Ooh, you remember your dream, what happened?’
He sighs, black button morning eyes a mixture of disappointment and borderline concern. ‘You remember‘ he says, quite encouragingly. ‘You remember, it was at the swimming pool.’
Blank faces. ‘You remember Mummy. YOU WERE THERE.’
The penny cascades, as ever too late to salvage any respect. ‘I was in the dream?’ I ask.
‘Yes, and we were late, we couldn’t go swimming, Arthur and Timothy were there. The water went down a plug hole. Can you remember?’
He eyes me expectantly. He’s egging me on, wanting me to share in the recall. So used is he to the idea that I know (almost) everything, so accepting of the new phase where we expect him to retain memories, discuss them, explain actions past and present, that this, his first readily recalled dream, is couched in the same terms. The logic is infallible. I was in the dream, of course I should remember what happened being as I was there in the dream with him too.
And as we piece together the dream, a slightly alarming dream in which the main problem at the swimming pool was we were late (reason unspecified) which ruined the fun, I realize that this is another area in which I can’t protect him. In dreams.
We’ve been through nightmares and night terrors. They were characterized by a lack of coherent recall, at the time and in the morning. Screams and shakes, rigid bodies, terrified clinging, shouting out – and then come 6 am a lolloping saucer eyed toddler slightly fuzzy round the edges and oblivious to our concerns about the midnight hour madness.
His little brother is trying this out for himself too. His latest ‘phase’ is crawling and sitting and trying to stand in his sleep, squishing back onto the mattress and hollering through the chasm between sleep and wakefulness in an endless lunge for me. Like Kato screaming from the shadows, in his black babygrow with a squeal and a leap, he dives into my nightie too afraid of his brain and body and the freedom of movement which unsettles his rest.
Maybe Dahl has it right, then, with his talk of a pale, windy Land of Dreams, accessible only to runty giants and brave orphans who know the way. For they are another country, dreams. Another place where my little ones can wander unassisted, with only themselves, their hopes and daemons as company. Another area where I can’t protect them, either of mine. And more pressingly, today, a place where I loom large and range around, apparently, letting them down and buggering up playdates at the local municipal baths. I am both there, and not there, sharing the experience but never able to remember.
Wow. What an insight I could get from this dream Mummy. What a window into Spider-boy’s thoughts. I think about asking as I stand in the playroom (looking like a dick for forgetting what happened when the monster turned up, which it did, after swimming was ruined). But it feels too strangely like prying, and I realize that it is probably too much of a question for me, or him, on a Sunday morning.
It still niggles me tonight, though. Who is she, their dream Mummy? Is she anything like the me I see in my dreams? And I hope she is, not least so she’s recognisably me, but better dressed and with less smudgy make up, even in the heat…