*note: copious amounts of profanity below.*
I've not been sleeping well lately. Duck had not just one but two accidents Monday night – or was it Sunday? The last few days have kinda run together. Maybe that accounts for it, I don’t know.
I don’t remember the run-up to this dream. But I found myself in a custody battle over my daughter with a woman who’s not even part of my family.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this girl before, who’s now working in the Lab part-time while Chatty Co-Worker is on medical leave for her broken hip. I’ve tried to avoid it, but to understand this dream, I think I have to give you at least a sketch. Hmm, what to name her? This is tough. I don’t want to be negative, really I don’t. And I suppose she must have her good points, it’s just that I can’t think of them now.
She has two kids. She works two jobs (so, OK, she’s industrious, there’s a plus.) It’s pretty much common knowledge that her husband is a drug addict – although she attributes this to his back problems, to which she also attributes his inability to work. Hence, the two jobs. The youngest, a boy, is home with his dad, with very little supervision, if any. The eldest, a girl, recently started public school. The school has already taken an interest in her, because she’s lagging behind a little – she had also stayed home with her dad in early childhood. Which is fine. but I don’t get the impression there was a lot of early education going on.
Back in September she brought in a picture of the girl, who is really awfully cute, and in the background all you could see was piles and piles of unwashed laundry. Used to drive my friend RB nuts when the kids would come in to visit – she’d say, with a suspicious tearful shine to her eyes, “They’re so sweet. I just want to take them home, buy them clothes, and give them a bath.”
We’ll call her Sheri. (Names have, of course, been changed.) Her own hygiene issues are fairly pronounced. She does a great job with makeup – really, she does – but then I got stuck next to her at a meeting and realized that the makeup and perfume is masking something kinda funky.
Coupla years back I remember she came in with a black eye. Ran into a door, she said, or some such nonsense.
There’s something wrong with the plumbing in her house, and she says she doesn’t have the money to fix it. So they have intermittent water, hence the hygiene issues.
Anyway, at some point I stopped feeling sorry for her. Now I fight off annoyance. Suffice to say that I think the kids are being neglected in lots of ways, and it infuriates me to no end. Don’t have the money to fix your water? Ask for help. There are tons of social services around to help out with that, especially if your husband is on disability. Can’t come up with ten bucks to get your daughter to a doctor to look at a below-the-waist irritation? Ask me. Ask anyone; we’d be happy to drop off the money at the doctor’s office. We’re suckers for kids around here.
Stuck in a dead-end marriage with a drug addict who beats up on you occasionally? Get out, for your kids’ sake, if for no one else’s.
You can love your kids all you want – but if you can’t manifest that love in their lives, it’s not going to do them much good.
But you know, I shouldn’t judge. I know that. And I know she’s got some serious problems in her life, and I should be trying to focus on compassion for her, for her kids, and even for her husband.
My subconscious, however, seems to disagree.
As I said, I don’t remember the run-up, or how the situation evolved. All I know is that I dreamed she had somehow gotten custody of my daughter. It was temporary custody while I worked it out with the court system, but there was nothing I could do to get her back while I waited for a hearing.
I knew D was living in this cesspool. I knew she was running around unsupervised with the father there, at risk for the gods only know what kind of danger. I knew there was a good chance she’d end up with lice. I knew she wouldn’t have gotten a bath more than once a week. (I admit that I bathe my daughter once a day whether she needs it or not.) I knew they were giving her junk food and undiluted juice and probably soda and parking her in front of the TV for hours, until she got bored and probably started going through cabinets and experimenting with cleaning supplies and…
Oh God but it was awful. I can’t even express the feeling; there isn’t a single word in the English language, or in any language that I know, to do this feeling justice. Desperate, terrified rage. Helpless in the face of unfeeling, misguided bureaucracy – and of course, more scared for my daughter than for myself. And those words don’t really begin to describe it. I wanted to slam my head against a wall to make it stop.
In the dream, someone mentioned that it might not be a good idea for me to see Sheri at work. I said no, I needed to deal with this and be able to stay calm so I could eventually get my daughter back.
But Sheri’s expression when she saw me was smug. Sneering. Arrogant. She was pleased I was so anguished. I knew from her face that the only reason she had my daughter was because she could. Because she wanted me not to have her. And that was the only reason. My daughter, as an object, to be used to hurt someone else.
“Goddamn you,” I hissed. “You have two kids already you don’t ever see. They’re dirty, you’re dirty, you don’t even know my daughter and how beautiful and wonderful and special she is, you’re just using her for the money or the tax deduction or whatever the fuck you think you’re getting out of this, maybe even just to piss me off because of what I have and you don’t. Stop smirking, you stupid fucking bitch, and give me back my daughter!”
They had to pull me off of her. Apparently I did not remain calm. And even as I was trying to beat the crap out of her, some part of me knew that it wouldn’t do any good, and that it wouldn’t get my daughter back.
I woke up screaming and sobbing, and so incredibly grateful that it was just a dream. Grateful that I’d had to change the sheets twice that night because of the accidents she’d had. Grateful that I was in the blessed partnership of parenthood with Brian, that I got to give her baths and make her dinner and share naps with her, and keep her active and learning and growing. And clean, for fuck’s sake. Clean and safe and loved.
I’m sure there’s a lot I’m supposed to learn from this dream. To be grateful for the challenges I have as a mother. To learn compassion for Sheri’s children, and to say mantras for them, because they could be my kids, you know? And really, if you think about it, they are. They’re mine and yours and everyone’s. A child neglected is a sin against the world.
In this case, I’m grateful the school is stepping in to question her parenting. Maybe she’ll get the help she needs but for some reason doesn’t know to ask for.
I suppose this has been lurking around the dark places in my head for a while now. Sorry to have vomited it out here, but you know, sometimes I just have to get it out of my system and get some sympathy.