Big, warm tears were now streaming down his face. “Why did you let me do it then,” he screamed through his clenching teeth as his face grew increasingly red.
“I’ve tried to save you from a lot in my life, son, but you had your mind made up.”
“You knew it was going to happen.”
“I didn’t know. No one can know, but I could have told you it was a bad idea.”
“Then why didn’t you?”
“Come here son,” I extended my arm out for him to come closer so I could embrace him. He didn’t budge. I slid a spot closer to him on the bed, but decided to keep my hands in my lap.
“When you were a baby and we brought you home from the hospital, your mother and I loved you so much. I’d never seen anything I loved as much as you. We weren’t sure exactly what to do with you, but I wanted to give you the world.
Every night I would come up and hold you in my arms and rock you and sing to you and dance you to sleep. Even if it took an hour, it was my favourite part of the day. The only problem was, every time you needed to go down for a nap or you woke up at night, you needed me to come and dance you back to sleep. Unless you were in my arms, you would go nuts.
One night me and Mom had to go to a wedding so we left you with Gramama. She tried to get you to stop screaming for 2 hours before she called me. We left in the middle of speeches to come and save you and as soon as you hit my arms you were out.
Gramama told me that you didn’t know how to fall asleep on your own. We weren’t giving you the skills you needed to be happy and independent when you got older. So we started sleep training you the next week. We got the book, we set up the crib, we gave you your little bear, and we let you figure it out.
I would read you a story, kiss you goodnight, and then put you down in the crib. I would pull my chair up next to you and just wait. You would scream and scream until you couldn’t breathe. I did everything the book said, and every night tears would roll down your face for an hour, just like they are now. You would sit straight up and reach out for me to pick you up and you would stare into my eyes with a look like you had been betrayed. Like I was leaving you down there because I didn’t want you – cos I didn’t want to help you. And I cried too. It was one of the hardest things I ever did.
But you know what I realized in that moment? Those were learning tears, son.” I finally put my hand up on his shoulder and he didn’t shrink away. “I will protect you from as many things as I can in this life. I will carry whatever I can for you. But you need to learn some of these things for yourself. You need to learn pain and loss and regret… and you need to learn to take responsibility for your decisions. There’s lots of things I won’t be able to do for you in this life, so you better learn from your tears. And you just know, when you come back home, mistakes and all, I’ll be here. I love you forever son.”