The final straw seemed to be the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. The dusty, aging book from her school library made my eyes water and my throat itch immediately; I asked to switch books after a few pages but she was so excited to delve into the fantasy she had waited weeks to procure, that I continued. We got through two full chapters before I realized that it was exacerbating her already troubling symptoms. (I’m sure Nate, who was working late, would call it some sort of karmic proof that we shouldn’t be reading an evangelical allegory in the first place.)
I shut the book and ushered her to bed, tucking her tight under the covers. I poured a spoonful of natural cough syrup and a little Benadryl. Then I told her it would make her tired pretty fast so she should get right to sleep. Her mind worked quickly.
“That would be great for babies!” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“I was thinking that sometimes moms can’t get their babies to go to sleep. Why don’t they give them some of this?”
“I wonder why no one ever thought of that,” I laughed And I tucked her into bed.
Nothing seemed to work. I could hear the coughing interspersed with the thrashing of a restless, sick girl who just wants to sleep. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. 15 minutes. Finally I called to her.”
“Do you want to come in and sleep with me for a bit?”
Holding my 7 year old in my arms, feeling her warm forehead through the cotton tee on my chest, seeing the little hint of a smile resulting from the vaguely illicit action of falling asleep in Mommy’s bed all struck the most profound mix of emotions in me. I felt helpless that I couldn’t do more. I felt powerful in that I could do this small thing. I felt frightened in hearing her wheezy, labored breathing. And above all, I felt this crush of belief that these kinds of moments won’t happen forever.
How much longer will she want to sleep next to me? How much longer will she hug me and squeeze me like a girl in love? How much longer will she need me like this?
I used to get so annoyed at every parent who looked down at my young babies and advised, it will go so fast.
Whatever, I used to think. Just get me through the diaper years.
Now I can’t stop thinking when I look at young babies, it will go so fast.
I try to only say it out loud half of the time. I can live with the price of annoyance.
Soon, Thalia fell asleep, if not as restfully as I’d have liked.
And yet the hardest part of all of it, I’m sure–once I knew she was okay–was having to carry her back to her own bed.