“Mom, I can’t see the light.”
It is 8 p.m. and my 4-year-old and I are in his bed. We have read three books and turned out the light, allowing the small flickers of illumination from the nightlight to take over.
He is voicing his concern that he can’t see the physical light plugged into the wall.
I shift my position so he can see the outlet, but I don’t say anything.
I am preoccupied with some recent pieces of news, on the brink of tears for an acquaintance who recently learned that her unborn child has a rare disease that will likely mean his time on Earth – if any – is very short.
I try to get my mind off it by getting onto social media, where I spot a link about a young girl with a metabolism disorder that will eventually claim her life before she ever becomes a teenager.
And then I see a picture of a friend and her child who is fighting his hardest against cancer.
“Oh, I see the light now, Mom. That’s better.”
Is it? Sometimes I want to bury my head in the sand and remain in the dark.
I know that sounds selfish, because I’m not the one who actually has to deal with the tragedies that so many people I know are facing. My heart breaks for these families because no one should have to go through that kind of pain.
When I hear their stories, I, like any other parent, think, “What if that were my child?” And that makes the hurt even worse.
I lie awake for hours with hot tears rolling down my face, so concerned that something could take my children from me. That’s why most of the time, my parenting instinct tells me to shut out the terrifying idea of anything happening to my kids.
Sometimes, my survival as a parent relies on being in the dark. I don’t want to know about the awful things that can happen to my kids. I want to live in a bubble and pretend that we are invincible. I will admit that I skip over blog posts and news stories because I know they will simply be too hard to read.
“The light makes me feel better, Mom.”
I put down my phone and turn to my son.
“Really? Sometimes I think the dark is better.”
“No, because we can see when there is a light.”
Such a simple thought, but how deeply is strikes a chord with me.
My clever 4-year-old has unknowingly reminded me that life in the dark is not exactly a life well-lived. True, I don’t need to read every national tragedy, but I can’t ignore the preciousness of life. I can’t ignore people in need.
Additionally, I can’t pretend that my family will always be together, because there will come a day when something changes, either with my husband, the little man lying next to me or his sweet little sister sound asleep in the next room, or with me.
As much as I prefer to sleep in the dark, we let the nightlight burn all night. When I awake in the morning and the outside world is still covered in darkness, that little light allows me to see my child’s face so clearly.
He is right: that is much better.