Everything Will Be Okay (And Other Lies Parents Tell)

About a year ago, my youngest son woke me up with his typical grousing sort of complaint and I did my sleepwalk-stumble into his room, re-arranged his blankets, gave him a kiss, and zombie’d my way back to bed. Not 20 minutes later, he woke me up again, this time with an escalating scream of pure fear. I tossed back the covers so I wouldn’t get tangled during my rapid exit (a practiced, fluid movement back then) and rushed to his side.

“What’s the matter, Pookie?” I asked, wiping tears off his face. He sobbed that there was a bug trying to get him. A butterfly, and it wanted to bite him, and he was scared.

I sighed. Not again. He’d just had this exact nightmare a week or so ago, screaming about a bug that scared him. Did we really have to add night terrors to our seemingly never-ending sleep issues?

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I patted him, smoothed the hair on his head, whispered that there was no bug. He’d been dreaming, that’s all. There’s no bug, I promise, Boo. I crouched next to his little toddler bed, ignoring the creaks and complaints in my knees, and rubbed his hands. I was just about to get up and tiptoe out of the room when he opened his eyes and fixated on the ceiling.

“Dere’s
anudder one,” he said, wonderingly.

I looked up to see an enormous black moth flitting around the dimmed lamp high on the wall. As I stared, it performed a bumbling, jerky circle midair, swooping startlingly close to my face, before landing back on the wall, wings outspread.


“Dat’s a scary butterfly,” Dylan said.


“Motherfucker,” I said.


The moth was eventually dispatched to the Great Round File in the sky, Dylan was re-settled, and I was back in my own bed. I couldn’t fall asleep, though. I kept thinking about the comforting lies we tell our kids. Promises we can’t necessarily keep.


Everything’s going to be okay. I won’t let anything hurt you. Mommy and Daddy will keep you safe.


I still think about that moment today—not the moth, exactly, but the way its presence was a fluttering, antennae'd reminder that I am not always right. I hope I am lucky enough to be mostly right, though. I hope I am mostly wrong about moths, and mostly right when I tell my children the million and one things I cannot guarantee. You're going to do great. Don't worry. You'll be fine.


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