Posted on | January 29, 2013 | 4 Comments

Last night, J told me he doesn’t like to go to sleep when he visits his father because he “dreams scary” when he’s there.  He told me that while he’s away from home he dreams that I’ve gone away and left him forever.

Today is a really long time for a little boy.  Forever is… unfathomable, especially for a little boy.  He nearly broke my heart with his earnest eyes, and all I could do was what all parents do… I cuddled him close and told him that I wouldn’t leave him. I told him that I’d always come back for him.  I told him the lies we tell to make it easier to close our eyes, the ones that make it easier for our children to close theirs.

But the truth is… we just don’t know. We hope. We pray. We shutter out the world and imagine a perfect place where we grow old and our children grow even older.  But we just don’t know.

I stayed awake for a long time after our talk, watching my little boy fall asleep.  I watched him toss and turn and finally settle into the stillness of slumber but still I couldn’t sleep. I sat awake, thinking of the promises I made to my boy and of another little one, not so far away from my own in age or experience.  I thought of her tossing and turning on her path to slumber.  I wondered if she looked at her father and said the same things, wondered the same things, hoped that he would tell her he would never leave her alone.

And I’m sure he does.  Even or especially in light of the truth of her experience.  Even or especially because her mother is forever gone, almost a full year passed since we’ve laid eyes on her sweet smile.

I couldn’t sleep last night, wondering how you make those promises… how we make those promises… when we know that at any moment everything could change and this house of cards we’re living in could disintegrate around us.  As I sat awake, I cried, thinking about my little boy, so desperate to be loved; so desperate for the attention and care of both his parents.  I thought about how he comes home from his visits with his father and tells me, on repeat, how much his daddy loves him as though he’s convincing us both it’s so very true.  But his father is there, when he can be, loving his son the best way he can, the only way he can. It may not always be enough for J, but it is something… he is still there.

And so, after a while, my tears became about her, that sweet-faced little girl with the familiar smile, and I prayed she will always know how much her mother wanted to stay, wanted to keep those promises.

Because I think,  at the end of the day… at the end of our lives… the only thing that really matters as parents is that we show our children, teach our children,  with every breath in our bodies that we want so desperately to be with them for as long as we have to be.


4 Responses to “Promises”

  1. Julia Hembree
    January 29th, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

    This makes me especially teary as I pondered a similar query recently. I think death and abandonment are common fears in little ones, even if they have no prior understanding of its full meaning. I often make those promises to my son; Mommy will always be here, Mommy will always be with you.
    We make the promises to sooth our children and we mean them, because as you perfectly described, we do want to be there for absolutely as long as possible.
    My dad died when I was 18 which has directly put into perspective my understanding of loss. And so when I make these promises to my son I make them because I mean them, to comfort him, and for him to know that it is the truth that I will always be with him…even when I’m not.

    January 30th, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

    Oh this makes my heart break into a million pieces. Because you’re right. Because I say the same thing to my son – I’ll always be here for you. But really, I might not. I hesitate when I say it, but I say it to soothe him. Because in the end, I am going to be there for him. Maybe not physically, but I want him to believe that I am always there in spirit. The same way I believe my father is always with me.

  3. Jackie Henson
    January 31st, 2013 @ 12:50 am

    that broke my heart reading this, unfortunately it hits a little close to home. i am experiencing this with my daughter, its tough and it sucks. I dont want her being afraid of me ever going away in anyway shape or form. I too tell those little white lies to protect her even when I know one day I wont be here. I just pray its when I am a lot older & she be a lot older.

  4. Christa the BabbyMama
    February 1st, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

    I was the kid in this scenario and while I remember it being hard, I also know that it wasn’t the hardest. I don’t look back and think, oh, if only my parents had stayed together. THAT would have been a real nightmare.

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