Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” as a Toddler’s Bedtime Story
Very accidentally, the main and indeed only bedtime story my toddlers want to hear at night is one about Gaiman’s Sandman.
Please believe me, I didn't plan this deliberately. I don't think I could have.
There's a kind of delirium state parents enter when they reach exhaustion and will say anything to make their kids lie down quietly. You say anything, hoping it'll have a calming effect. I'd be unsurprised to hear footage of myself reciting Chinese restaurant combo meals.
At some point, I must have started rambling about the Sandman. It's on my mind enough; I teach it to middle schoolers.
My kids had me in the endless loop of, "Daddy, I want a kiss. And a hug. And a high five. And a fist bump. Put my blanket on!" So I mentioned the Endless.
I rambled out something about Morpheus and kept going. It was made in an impaired state of consciousness and never intended to be repeated.
Until the next night.
Eager eyes. Blankets clutched.
"Daddy. Tell me the Sandman."
A bedtime story is a ritual, and children will inform you when you are doing it wrong. Through a state of narrative natural selection, our family has settled on an orthodox telling of Gaiman's Sandman for Toddlers.
"If you close your eyes and lie still-"
This is the Very Important Part for the parent side of the equation.
"...then the Sandman, Morpheus, the Prince of Stories, the Lord Shaper, the King of Dreams will come..."
One must take care not to get the order wrong.
"...He'll come with his bone helmet, and black robe, and glowing red necklace, and bag of magic sand..."
Yesterday, my two-and-a-half-year-old son politely informed me that I had forgotten the necklace, but no recriminations would be made if I immediately made a correction.
"... and he'll put his magic sand on your eyelids..."
The children have reasoned out for themselves that "magic" sand doesn't hurt your eyes the way normal sand does. They're familiar with the anarchy of the daycare playground.
"...and he'll send you to the Dreaming and give you amazing dreams."
There is wiggle room in the descriptive word. Awesome dreams. Incredible dreams. Fantastic dreams.
Never "good dreams."
I don't believe Morpheus would approve of that promise.
If one cares, one can mention meeting Matthew the raven, Merv Pumpkinhead the scarecrow, or Lucien the librarian of all the Books That Never Were.
This is generally just garnish.
The ritual is complete. The children are appeased.
Sometimes, I will have to do it twice.
Even if they've both in the same room, six feet apart.
Separate performances will be demanded.
My greatest hope in this is that one day they'll be rebellious gothy teenagers, deep in the epoch wherein Dad Is Not Cool.
They'll approach me with the family copy of Preludes and Nocturnes in hand and eyes overflowing with questions.
And I'll only smile.
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