Clever Monsters

When I was a young parent and would get the 2:00 a.m. Monster Under The Bed call, I would do the obvious and ultimately useless thing of bravely checking under the bed to reassure my son that he had nothing to worry about: nothing lived there but dust bunnies and forgotten toys. But monsters are clever, and so the second time I am called into the bedroom at 2:00 a.m. and bravely look beneath the bed, I am told that the monster snuck out and into the closet when I had my back turned. And so I pull the closet doors open, and Lo! No monsters.

Except monsters are cleverer still. By the third 2:00 a.m. trip I am told that the monsters have a special power: they are invisible to grownups. It is about this time that my young parenting patience runs out and I growl, “There are no monsters anywhere in your bedroom, all right? I’m very tired. Go to sleep.”

I am older now, but the monsters are still around. Clever as always, they have changed their shape to suit the child. Last night my thirteen year-old son’s cry pulled me from a very pleasant dream. I staggered into his room and found him sitting up in bed.

“Dad, I heard a burglar in the house.”

The troubles of the world are not yet relevant to the half-dreaming mind, and so I had the wisdom on this night not to even listen for the burglar I knew did not exist. “Sawyer,” said the part of me that knew what it could not see, “answer me honestly now. Ready? Are you ready?”

“I’m ready.”

“Okay. Quickly now: are you safe?”

He blinked at me in the darkness. “Yes.”

“Good.” I eased him back onto his pillow. “That’s the only answer you’ll ever really get, you know.”

Out in the hall my mind was waking up. How unfortunate. Now, it might resist returning to sleep. Now, it might even find itself listening for burglars.

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