My little one, usually so unafraid, so fearless, bold and brave, had monsters in her room last night.
This was our first foray into a fear of the imaginary. At 2 1/2, she has always embraced anything mysterious, scary or creepy. But, the time has come for her imagination to run off with thoughts of the unknown lurking in the shadows and threatening the safe haven of her bedroom.
It started with a little voice on the baby monitor that, of course, immediately woke me from a deep slumber to keen my ears for whatever her need may be.
"Oh man," she said quietly. "There's a monster in my room."
I smiled inwardly, because it was more of a statement than a complaint. I lay there, in wait, fully expecting her to fall back to a deep, sound sleep. But instead of this, she continued to babble on and on about the monster in her room. She told her stuffed puppy dog. She told her Nunny bunny, and I listened attentively, not paying any mind to the fact that it was one in the morning. But, just as the monitor went mute and I was beginning to drift off again, I heard the wails of my baby girl and immediately shot up in bed.
"Do you want me to get her?" my husband asked sleepily as he rolled over in the bed.
I listened to her cry, analyzing the tone and vibrato, deciding whether this was a "real" cry or a temporary disturbance in her sleeping pattern that would resolve itself quickly. As the volume and urgency increased and she began to shriek, I nodded my head.
"Yes, go get her."
I waited in the bed for him to bring me my baby, my heart aching and my stomach turning over, just hoping that I would be able to give her whatever it was she needed. As soon as she saw me, she laughed with relief and the crying subsided enough for her to say "Mommy, there was a monster."
She sat next to me on the bed in the darkened room, her little body shaking with fear. I had never seen her so frightened and my heart jumped into my throat. Her eyes were big, darting around the room, searching for a telltale sign of the intruder that had scared her so. I pulled her into my arms and ran my fingers through her silky hair.
"There are no monsters, baby," I said softly. "Mommy and Daddy are here."
"Oh, Mommy and Daddy," she replied. "the monster was in my room."
I pulled her tighter, feeling her shallow, uneven breaths, as though she was trying desperately to catch up with them. I stroked her back and kissed her head. "No monsters here," I whispered through her hair. She shook and looked around, finally finding my face in the darkened room. And finally, she began to relax.
We lay there in the bed for what seemed like hours, but was in reality about 30 minutes. She fit in my arms like an extension of myself and eventually our breathing became even and in synch. But we didn't fall asleep. I listened to each breath and cough and was acutely aware of each shift in my arms. She sucked her thumb and every now and then reached out to touch my face or my arm, as if she was checking to make sure I was still there, that I hadn't dissolved into the shadows or that the unseen beast hadn't emerged and carried me away. Each time, I was there, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Eventually, I felt her turn towards me and she whispered my name.
"Mommy," she said. "I'm all done being scared."
I pulled her closer, because I knew what was coming next. "Are you ready to go back to your bed?" I asked, and she nodded.
I took her back to her bed, knowing that tonight, I had forced out the monsters and kept her safe. But there was a part of me that was more frightened than she was, because this was just the first of many monsters she would encounter in her long life to come.
I just hoped I could protect her from all of them forever. And although I knew that this was a futile desire, that I wouldn't be able to save her from every frightening experience or heartache, I knew that there would not be one day that I didn't use all that I had to fight for her. She completed me in a way that I never thought was possible and brought me more joy and unconditional love that I ever could have dreamed of existing in this world.
Those monsters don't know what they have coming to them. A mother's love is nothing to mess with.
Bring it on.
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