Today is December 26th, the day after Christmas — and I hope every Christian and Christmas-celebrating person reading this post had a wonderful holiday!
I spent Christmas Eve day with my family in Silverton, Colorado, and then Christmas Eve (evening) with my husband’s family outside Bayfield, Colorado, and then Christmas Day, we were snowed in, so Greg and I spent the day at home. I read books and made chili, gave my husband a hard time about taking a vacation (he wants to go on a cruise to Alaska, but never buys himself the tickets to take the trip) — and other than that, my brain was very quiet on Christmas Day, pretty much fuzzed out by all the weeks of commotion leading up to the holiday, and then blanketed by a deep sense of calm, much like the world covered in snow.
I have so many children and family members to shop for, and send packages to, that I just appreciate how, come the actual Christmas Day, I have no children at home to care for, and can be silent, and selfish, and do nothing more than read a couple of books, call/text/email a few people, and wash a few loads of laundry. I would have spent the day in Montrose, Colorado, at my brother Lee’s house, but I spent the day in my jammies instead, and I was content and happy, even if I was really craving dark chocolate, and I had no dark chocolate to eat.
Today I have no cravings for chocolate, and no desire to do much of anything other than lay around like a lazybones and read more books. I was supposed to take two young boys out to lunch and then shop at the bookstore with them, but both of these teenagers cancelled on me, my sister hasn’t come to town as she’d planned, and here I am, reading, doing some light stretches to help my lower back, and I drank a glass of (homemade) eggnog a couple hours ago.
So I thought I’d share this frightening nightmare I had a few days ago.
Because this is my Thought Candy blog, and while I could share my sweet family pictures here, and chat about lovely things, I’d rather talk about icky stuff instead.
Yeah, I know. I’m one of those people.
In my nightmare —
I dreamed I had an 8-year-old son with sandy brown hair, and in the dream, I was waking up from a nap. (In real life, I only sleep in the afternoon if I’m sick, but dream-me was a nap-taker. Maybe because she was also a mom, and moms have lives much more stressful than mine.)
At any rate, dream-me was also a phantom. I could float. I floated out of my house, and I floated to my son’s classroom at school.
I don’t know why I did this, but it felt really urgent. I had to go find my son, right away.
So phantom-me floated into his classroom. My son’s desk was near the back of the room, and I saw him kicking the chair in front of him, harshly whispering to the girl who occupied the seat, “Fat-ass, fat-ass, fatty fat-ass,” low enough the teacher couldn’t hear him, but the other students all could, and the popular ones snickered appreciatively while the unpopular ones stared down at their papers in mute terror, scared he would turn his attentions on them.
Then my son used a straw to launch several spitballs into the girl’s hair, which she didn’t feel hit her because she had big, frizzy black hair that the spitballs stuck to (and looked repulsively ugly in), but she didn’t know they were there.
My son snorted and laughed with glee, and then he started to whisper other things to this girl, sexual things about her body (her nipples and breasts), and proceeded to tell her how ugly she was —
At that point, I started awake with a bolt of pure horror, no longer the phantom-me in the dream but real me, and I actually leapt out of bed and ran down the hall, convinced my son was asleep in my guest bedroom.
I kept thinking, “How could I let this happen? How could I raise a bully? How could my child act like that? Have I taught him nothing?”
I had a whole list of things I had to do right away, to correct for this terrible state of affairs. I pulled back the blankets on the bed in the guest room, and only then did I realize I did not have an 8-year-old child — and I had not, in fact, raised a bully.
Some people might laugh at that dream, and some people might giggle about boys torturing girls, and say, “Boys will be boys,” and look at such antics as “cute.”
Take the picture of the little boy pulling that girl’s hair up above — I know a lot of people who would find this image humorous, and call that “healthy kid behavior.” Especially when both children are dressed so cutely, and the little boy is wearing an argyle sweater-vest and a plaid collared shirt. Adorable, right?
However. I’m not one of those people.
There are few phrases I dislike more than, Boys will be boys, which, as far as I can tell, was invented to give males a blank check to act like assholes. At any age.
Bullies do not make me giggle, and that nightmare freaked me the hell out.
I sat on the guest bed for several minutes, with my head in my hands, thanking God I didn’t give birth to a child who would go out and cause pain and suffering in this world. Thanking God that I have never given a child a blank check to torture people with abandon. Because a boy who could do what my dream-son was doing at age eight… well, it’s a small step from that kind of torment to much worse violations.
And then I thought of all the rapists who exist in the world… and how many of them come from loving families, families who have no idea they’ve raped girls of all ages — young girls, teenagers, freshmen in college…
I thought of all the rapists who go home for Christmas, and wear cute argyle sweater-vests with nice collared shirts, and pass the potatoes at dinner, and watch sports with their dads.
Boys will be boys, and all.
This is not what I believe.
I believe we are born to strive to be our best selves. I believe morality is innate. I believe we are happiest when we feel intense gratitude, and I believe helping others is a life-affirming expression of gratitude.
I would have told my son all of these things.
I would have made him go shopping with me. We would have picked out gifts for the girl he was tormenting. Flowers, Monster High dolls, glittery lip gloss, a robot set, Lego Star Wars toys — I would have made my son think long and hard about what she might like. He would have hated me for doing this. I wouldn’t have cared.
I would have made him write something to share with all of his classmates, and his teacher. About his behavior, and how his behavior needed to change, and why.
I would have taken all of my son’s toys away, and I would have made him read books with me. We would have started with Wringer and Maniac Magee. Jerry Spinelli is a beautiful writer, and reading those books together would have been a starting point for a conversation I would be having with my son for the rest of our lives.
It feels rather bizarre that I would make an action plan over a nightmare concerning a life I don’t have. Such is the power of dreams in convincing us they are real. But giving free range to a bully — raising a child who could torment and abuse other people — ranks near the top of my list of Horrifying Events I Thank God I Don’t Have to Suffer.
Perhaps now would be a good time to go find some dark chocolate.
Hot chocolate also sounds really good.
Hot chocolate, books, and a clean, quiet house free of bullies — this is post-Christmas heaven to me. I am grateful.