The Kids Are All Right: Dream Rockwell
Stepping out of the familiar and into the unknown is sometimes necessary in order to fulfill oneself. One woman, consumed by work, longed to give to others. In the end, a life was saved and a mother was born.
Determined to deliver comforting necessities to young orphans, Dream Rockwell—creator of the Los Angeles–based performance group Lucent Dossier Experience and cofounder of the Do LaB and Lightning in a Bottle—formed the Cuddle the World foundation. Although her work with the foundation took her away from the electronic music scene, she met her fate at a small orphanage in the country of Guyana in South America.
The love story of mother and son began when Rockwell came face to face with two-year-old Akeeva. Navigating through a rough, three-year adoption process, Rockwell stayed strong and followed her instincts, which she soon realized were that of a new mother. The boy was ailing from poor diet, and Rockwell adopted him, took him home, and nursed him back to good health. He is now a strong six-year-old in first grade.
Did you always know you wanted to be a mother?
I knew that I wanted to be a mom, but I just was not making space for it. Between working for Lucent and Lightning in a Bottle, I just felt like I didn’t have time to breathe. In 2006, I started a foundation with a group of Lucent performers, called Cuddle the World. The inspiration behind Cuddle the World was to teach the children to cuddle and care for themselves and each other, because no one else would. We went to orphanages across the world, cuddled babies, and brought them blankets and stuffed animals to cuddle, [as well as] musical instruments and inspirational toys. I really loved it, and that was when I met Akeeva, my son.
Can you tell us about the moment you met your son?
I fell in love with him the moment I saw him. A little voice in my head told me to keep going there to see him. I knew I was his mom. That was when I started the process of adoption.
How was the adoption process for you?
It was very difficult and took a long time, since I was a Canadian single female living in the United States. He was also very sick in the orphanage. They told me he was never going to get better. It turned out to be food allergies. What they were feeding him was basically killing him. They wouldn’t allow me to adopt him at first, because of his sickness. I just loved him, and I couldn’t leave him—I didn’t care what anybody said.
What did you do when the orphanage and everyone else were questioning your journey?
The motherly instinct was there from the moment I met him. I was like a mama bear; I was ferocious about it. No matter what anybody said or how they tried to stop me—my friend kept telling me, “What are you doing? You are in foreign country! This is ridiculous!” I was even asking myself what I was doing, but the instincts were there immediately, and I could not stop myself. I had to do it.
Were there other adoption issues?
They said, “Oh, you are single? You can’t adopt. Oh, you are a woman alone? You can’t adopt. Oh, you don’t make $100,000 a year? Sorry.” It was hurdle after hurdle after hurdle, and this is why so many people give up on adoption. I met a lot of people who gave up along the way.
“I only had him home for two months, and he said to me, ‘Mommy, did I save your life?’ I smiled and said yes. He said, ‘Because you saved mine.’”
What kept you strong during the process? I wonder if this is one of the factors that contributes to homelessness?
Yes. In different countries they can be as young as 16. They have no support system.
I am not a person who gives up or takes no for an answer if I know that I am doing something right. But I have my son now, and he is amazing! He is so beautiful, and he has been through so much. I watched him suffer in that orphanage for three years, no one loving him. They had him on tons of medications. They even put him through a round of chemotherapy. He was allergic to food the whole time!
How did that all end?
It didn’t end until I got him here in the US. It was my instincts that told me something was not right. I’ve always been super into nutrition. I limited his diet when he got here, took him off sugar and dairy. I am a vegetarian, so he became one, too. The second I did that, he came straight back to health.
You literally saved his life.
Yeah. I only had him home for two months, and he said to me, “Mommy, did I save your life?” I smiled and said yes. He said, “Because you saved mine.”
I remember speaking to you about how you wanted to adopt—backstage at Lightning in a Bottle, when I was breastfeeding my baby. The next year, I saw Akeeva at his first Lightning in a Bottle. We were so happy for you. When was his first festival or event?
Three weeks after he came home with me, I took him to LIB. Last year, he went to Burning Man and Symbiosis.Zipporah Lomax
Wow! How long was he at Burning Man? How did that go?
We were there for 10 days. It was a marathon. Because Lucent had a bunch of shows out there, a friend of mine rented an old carnival trailer that had a bunch of rooms in it. It was very cool. He loved it.
Does he love the music? Does he play instruments in the house?
Yes, he has his own piano in his room, and he has guitars and drums. He loves to dress up. He’s kind of magical in that way. I’m not pushing it on him; it’s just something that he can do for fun. He’s super shy, so I don’t know if he will be a performer, but he likes to have fun.
Do you have any advice for single parents trying to making it work?
Yes, there is one thing I wanted to point out that has made such a difference. When I first got him home, I was so overwhelmed with work and being a new mom. LIB was in full swing, so I ended up using the TV as a babysitter. I decided to keep him out of daycare and school in order to let the bonding period occur. I ended up using the iPad and Netflix too much and had him watching movies all day long. I couldn’t work at the same time. He started having temper tantrums and emotional problems. So, I decided to take away the iPad. When I did, I saw a dramatic difference. He no longer has temper tantrums. I can’t remember the last time I had a problem with him.
What other advice do you have for a parent—especially a single mom?
Cutting out TV and sugar was the best thing I could do. I talk to him like he’s a wise little wizard, and I explain everything to him. I explain to him why he can’t have something like sugar, so he understands everything. It was funny, though—one day he said to me, “Mommy, I don’t want you to have sugar anymore.” I was like, “Uhhh….” [Laughs] He said, “Because it’s not good for you, and I want you to be healthy and happy.”
All photos courtesy of Dream Rockwell.
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