Daddy how do you get bad thoughts out of your head?
When my daughter first whispered these words I thought I had a suitable response. I told her just to think about something that makes her happy. Sometimes that strategy works for me. But not often. After about a minute she said Daddy, it’s not working.
This time I tried to give her some ideas. Maybe that was all she needed. At least that was my hope. I never like it when my little girl, who’s not so little anymore, is sad. Once again though, my advice failed.
My wife and son had already fallen asleep. But I know what it feels like to worry and I know what it feels like when you can’t get your thoughts the way you want them. And simply trying to think happy thoughts is just a temporary fix. I should have remembered that.
I had an idea that I hoped would work. I whispered to my daughter, let’s go downstairs and get a bowl of cereal. She balked at my idea at first. With a gentle nudge she reconsidered and we quietly made our way to the kitchen.
She wanted Special K, but we were out. Rice Krispies was a decent second. For both of us. She didn’t want any milk in hers. Not me. I added milk and peaches to mine. She offered to get me a spoon. I took her up on this offer because the box of assorted cutlery wasn’t as assorted as it used to be. Finding spoons was becoming more and more difficult.
When we first came downstairs she wanted to turn the big light on. I stopped. It wasn’t a big light kind of moment. The small light above the sink would do just fine.
We slowly ate our cereal and just talked. I shared a happy post that I had just read and we watched a music video of my new favorite song. But I don’t think it really mattered what we did. What mattered was that a daddy and his little girl got to spend time together. At a time when the rest of the house and most of the neighborhood was asleep.
There is something about being up late at night. How the world seems to slow down. Time spent with loved ones takes on a different meaning. No obligations. Little to no noise. And less light. But just enough to see each other and connect. And even though there is less light, life seems much clearer than it does in the daytime.
We finished our bowls and tip toed back upstairs. With two mattresses on the floor we slept side by side on this night. We said our love-yous and I waited. One minute. Two. Three. My little girl was able to fall asleep. Now I knew I could too.
My daughter didn’t need advice and she didn’t need reminders. She needed me.
I may have missed out on a few moments of sleep last night. And I was a little more tired than usual when I woke up this morning. But what I gained last night. The time spent with my daughter will forever be etched in memory. And you know what? The next time I go to bed feeling down or worried about something, I know that I have a better plan. I will think back to the night my daughter and I shared a late night bowl of cereal. And I will feel a little bit better.
Better yet, I will whisper to my daughter.
Just to see if she wants to join me for a second bowl.
I bet she’ll says yes.
Love works miracles in stillness.
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