My dear, sweet, lovely child,
Let me be blunt: You are driving me out of my ever-loving mind.
Listen, I know you’re just 4 and have very real fears of the dark, monsters, and being alone. I get it. Hell, just a few weeks ago, your dad and I were certain that an off-kilter washing machine drum was actually a blood-thirsty burglar. And when he left our room to confront that would-be intruder, I didn’t place high odds on his returning safely. I wished in that moment I still had a blankie to snuggle up with like you do. The dark sucks. Unfamiliar noises suck.
But you know what? Things that go bump in the night will scare you until the day you die. None of us are as brave as we pretend to be.
That being said, we have got to find a new arrangement.
I’ll be honest, your grandparents were superheroes. They survived four kids — that’s four complete childhoods full of bad dreams, scary storms, and midnight snuggles — with a kind of grace that I can’t quite seem to muster. I try. I do! But, I just wasn’t prepared for this level of torture. Nobody told me!
I’m not sure where you acquired that starfish technique of yours but I have to say, it’s not very conducive to fitting two grown adults and one tiny person in a queen-size bed. But I could live with that tiny sliver of mattress if it meant a peaceful, if precarious, night’s sleep.
Alas, that is not the world in which we live. No, apparently starfish people must flail about as if an imaginary ocean current forces their body to remain in a state of perpetual movement. They seem to have evolved motion sensors that lock onto anything in its path. And by anything, I mean anything called Mom. Dads have somehow acquired immunity. Explain that one.
Sometimes it’s the starfish that shows up. Sometimes it’s just a shadowy figure standing quietly over me until I awake in horror. Even then, I am guilted into letting you crawl into my bed because my inevitable shriek of terror causes you to cry and tell me I scared you. Whatever form your shapeshifting takes, it’s utterly exhausting.
Child, I love you. You are my world. But, for the love of God, if I have to peel your sticky, sweaty feet off of my face more than once a night, you will find yourself with a gremlin instead of a mother at daybreak — and not the cute one either. Nobody wants that.
Look, I know I’m not blameless in this. Websites and self-help books all say that I’ve allowed this nightly behavior to flourish with my apparently less-than-stellar willpower. So…guilty as charged, I guess?
Just know this: I love you. I love you so much that the thought of refusing you comfort in the face of genuine fear is unthinkable, even when my own comfort is drastically reduced. The truth is, while part of me can’t wait to sleep comfortably again, I also know that these days are numbered.
Yes, I want the starfish out of my bed. Maybe we compromise with a sleeping bag on the floor? Just spitballing here. But you, my little girl…you never have to worry about being alone. You never have to worry about the dark. You can always find comfort in your parents…
…until you’re grown up and the washing machine drum gets off balance. Then you’re shit out of luck.
(Originally published on Scary Mommy – 13 September 2016)
**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.