Last night, the noise emanating from the baby monitor sounded different from all the others we had heard in the past. Usually, my wife, Lovie, and I can tell within the first minute or two who it’s coming from, as well as what the problem is. Sometimes it’s Monster letting us know he’s lost his blankie. Other times it’s Biggs telling us he’s pooped. Every now and then it’s Peanut babbling incoherently to herself. But none of these was the case last night. I made my way upstairs with curious impatience, wondering what the problem was.
The cries turned out to be Monster’s, the only respite coming whenever he shuddered out a sigh between his loud wails. I held my 2-year-old close and whispered in his ear, but his cries continued. He wrapped his arms and legs around my torso with surprising and ever-increasing strength as he stared at the bathroom door, seemingly mesmerized by the light that shone from beneath it. I turned my body to divert his attention, but it didn’t work. He simply craned his head and continued his stare, still hypnotized, his cries growing louder, his little face mangled in a scowl that I had never seen him make before.
It finally registered—my little guy was frightened.
Worried the ruckus would wake the other two, I carried Monster to the bonus room where we sat on the blue couch in complete darkness, his wet cheek pressed against my dry one. After a while, his cries subsided, though the strength with which he clung to me never did. So I squeezed back, holding him even closer than before—close enough to feel the pounding of his heart so distinctly that it felt like my own, or at the very least like one we shared. Thump-thump—thump-thump—thump-thump—thump-thump. I rocked him back and forth to the beat while running my fingers through his thick head of hair, pausing every now and then to softly kiss his forehead. Before long, he was out like a light.
While Monster slept, I contemplated the fear that had woken him, wishing he knew that there was nothing to be scared of. But even if he did, it probably wouldn’t have mattered—fear always sides with whatever you’re scared of. Suddenly I began thinking about the scary things that kept me up at night—the economy, our business, my book, my family’s safety, the health of my aging mom, my sister’s battle with cancer, the contentious relationships among my in-laws, and the unknown mystery that is the future as it relates to any one of those things. A wave of anxiety overcame me, which, when it had finally passed, left me with a feeling of futility.
I turned my attention back to Monster. He was sleeping peacefully, as if he had already forgotten whatever it was that had scared him in the first place. His arms and legs were still wrapped around me, but no longer with the same force. His heartbeat was still pulsing its way through my body, but without the same speed or ferocity. I started to take him back to his crib, but thought better of it. Moments like the one that Monster and I were sharing have a feeling which too often goes unfelt. And I wasn’t going to let that happen. I wasn’t done with that moment yet and neither was Monster.
So there we sat on the blue couch in the pitch-black bonus room, cheek-to-cheek, sharing the same heartbeat, as well as the same magical, primal moment that belonged to us and no one else. I basked in the comfort we were providing for one another and smiled at a sudden revelation.
Thanks to me, Monster wasn’t scared anymore. Thanks to him, I wasn’t either.