?Please don?t leave Dad.?
Sitting in the shadowy room on the edge of my eight year old son?s bed seemed routine lately. I had never seen him so frightened. His face, warmed only by the hallway light, was a pageantry of dread: puppy dog eyes, quivering lips, and tears, all pulled at my heart strings. I sensed fear in his voice, and whatever he was afraid of in the closet seemed real to him.
I remember being a kid and the shadows that moved in my bedroom at night. I remember calling out for my parents?all too often. When no one came I froze. I felt paralyzed with fear, lying stiff in bed under my sheets. I would wish for the morning to come; wanting sunlight to warm between the slits of my window blind, driving the darkness and monsters away. I don?t recall if my terror of the dark was legitimate, but older now, my adult mind seemed stripped of any silly childhood fears. I guess that?s what happens when you grow up; you shed that part of you or repress it. But still, to this day, I wonder what had set my imagination so vividly in motion? What was behind those bumps in the night that sent me into sweats of panic?
Witnessing my son pulling the covers up over his head and writhing under his sheets reminded me of my own childhood monsters. But that fear of creeping demons slithering in the shadows was what my son felt. What I felt was a much different fear?a primal worry?an instinct every parent feels for a child when danger is present. It is my job to protect him.
?Kieran, we?ve gone over this repeatedly for the last few nights, there?s nothing in your closet. Now it?s time to sleep. I have lots of work to do tonight.? I moved to stand, but didn?t get far.
?Dad, please don?t go.? He reached up and wrapped his tiny arms around me. His fleece pajamas felt soft, cozy and had a fresh baby powder scent that released memories of my baby boy growing up. I hugged him firmly?holding onto those sweet thoughts?ready to soothe his fears; that?s what dads do.
?It?ll be okay. You?re safe.?
?But Dad, I hate it when he taps on the closet door.?
The blood in my ears began pounding and a spiralling chill jerked at my own superstitious fears. It?s those small uttered statements, seemingly genuine, made by kids, that when casually thrown out as if it?s a truth, drive a stake of horror into the hearts of adults. Phrases like: what?s that man doing in the mirror, and nothing is there, or why is grandma visiting today, although she?s been dead for weeks. Those expressions mean something. Something adults can?t see or understand. Uneasiness fills me, and the child inside is scared?terrified like my son?but I mentally remind myself,