Last night, Brandon, you couldn’t sleep because you watched a video on the iPad that frightened you. You called, “mommy!” from your bed, even though you never call me that anymore and I raced up the bunk stairs to hold you. You were covered in a cold sweat. You told me about the video, that it had a devil on it and now you believed monsters were real. I smoothed your sweaty hair and said, “that might have seemed real, but it isn’t. What is real is that you are safe here, in your cozy home. Your brother is right beneath you. I am here to hold you. This is what’s real.”
I told you what I know to be true, but I also know your fear. I told you I remembered seeing something that scared me once, at the mall. It was Terminator 2, playing on the tv at Suncoast next to the Gap. I remember Arnold Schwarzenegger on a motorcycle, shooting or getting shot at. I had nightmares about getting holes blown into my back after that, too often. Only a little while ago I found out my brother, who was with me, also had reoccurring nightmares from what we saw. We had been sheltered until then. And then, we knew that people killed people, that people might kill us. The ugliness I hadn’t known was too much for me to process. I remember being afraid to fall asleep, being afraid that what had scared me once would scare me again while I dreamed.
It took a long time for you to fall asleep, but when you did, it was cuddled in my arms.
There is so much I wish I could promise you that I can’t.
I wish I could promise you that you won’t be scared, but I can’t.
I can only promise you that I will hold you, smooth your sweaty hair, and reassure you of what is real.
I wish I could promise you that you won’t get sick, but I can’t.
I can only promise to give you a juice chaser after your medicine, a sucker after the doctor, and lots of couch snuggles while we watch movie marathons instead of going to school.
I wish I could promise that people will never disappoint you, but I can’t.
I can only promise that I will try to make it better by being for you what you need.
I wish I could promise you that things will turn out the way you hope, but I can’t.
I can only promise you that things will turn out, and that you will learn to adapt because you are a smart and sensitive boy that can handle absolutely anything, even devils on the iPad.
I wish I could promise you that you will always know you’re good enough, but I can’t.
I can only promise you that I will remind you over and over again how important and special and kind and smart and funny you are.
I can’t promise you life will be easy, but I can promise to be there with you, as long as I can.
And I can promise you that you’re strong enough for all of it, because you are. You fell asleep last night, and your chest heaved up and down, breathed in, then out. That’s all there is to it, in the most basic sense. Taking another breath, then another. You made it through last night. You’ll make it through a lot of other shit, too. You will, you will, you will.