‘Twas the first day of May, and my wife Elaine and my mother sat casually feeding our daughter Sienna eggplant rollatini in a pizzeria down the block from our apartment when out of nowhere the scariest creature on the planet zoomed by Sienna’s head.
No, I’m not talking about a rat or a killer bee or a king cobra. No great white shark decided to make a side trip from the ocean to have a slice of pizza. I’m not even talking about that insidious varmint known as Elmo. I’m referring to an ordinary housefly.
It’s amazing what strikes fear into the hearts of toddlers. According to eyewitnesses (Elaine and my mom), Sienna screeched and jumped into Elaine’s lap, clinging to her neck as if it were the last life preserver on the sinking Titanic, and buried her face on her mommy’s shoulder when the fly first buzzed her head.
“It’s just a fly, honey,” Mommy allegedly said. “It’s gone. Nothing to worry about. No more fly.”
Reports say it took some time for Sienna to calm down and release her mommy from that death grip.
“No fly,” said Sienna. “No fly.”
“That’s right,” echoed Elaine. “No fly.”
Then the monstrous beast streaked across the room and Sienna was back in her mommy’s lap, tears streaming, knuckles turning so white as she gripped Elaine that mommy began to turn blue. Time and again a terrified Sienna would calm down and then hurl herself at Elaine when that fly flew overhead.
Even when they reached the safety of the apartment Sienna would occasionally ask to be held while shaking her little head and assuring herself: “No fly. No fly.” This was something I witnessed when I got home and Elaine made me aware of the evening’s events making sure to always spell F-L-Y so as not to upset out daughter. I watched as Sienna peeked her head around the corner, looked at my wife for comfort, asked to be picked up and said, “No fly. No fly.”
When night-night came, Sienna seemed OK. It was Elaine’s night to put her down and our daughter laughed and played under fluorescent blue stars until my wife told her to climb into bed. She fell asleep, but apparently that devilish fly haunted Sienna’s dreams. As we sat on the couch listening over the baby monitor we heard our daughter whimper and then cry out as if a serial killer were after her in her sleep: “Help! Stop! Mommy! Daddy!”
Elaine went in first. She picked a drowsy Sienna up, held her to her chest, sat down in the rocking chair and rocked. But the little girl screamed and squirmed, screamed and squirmed. I went into the darkened bedroom and asked my little girl if she’d like to lie down on the floor with Mommy and Daddy.
I don’t know if she was awake or asleep when she answered, but it doesn’t matter. The three of us lay on the floor, Sienna between Elaine and myself. She sucked her thumb. She held her blanket. She fidgeted and fussed. Elaine and I ran our fingers through her hair and stole glances at each other. Finally I decided this was a night Sienna needed us, her parents, even more than ever. She needed to feel safe. We brought Sienna to our bedroom, placed her head on a pillow, shut off the light and got into bed. It was barely 11 pm so I had to take half a melatonin otherwise I would have lay there staring into the blackness.
I asked Sienna if she’d like me to sing “Rainbow Connection” which happens to be her current favorite song (I’m so proud!). She said yes and I dutifully complied, the words flowing over her in the darkness, lulling her to sleep. Little snores escaped her tiny nose. In her sleep she slipped across the pillow and landed with her face in my back. And I loved it. I loved being there for my daughter even if it meant having barely enough room to keep myself on the bed. I lay there feeling warm and important. I lay there feeling like vital father.
It wasn’t an easy night. Fitful sleep for all of us. Sienna periodically moaning, asking for help as that ghastly fly plagued her dreams, Elaine and I waking up at each whimper. According to Elaine, when she got up for work at 5 am, she had to leave a mewling and suffering little girl filling her with heartbreak. By the time Sienna and I awoke around 8 am, all was well with the world, both the actual fly and its nighttime apparition gone from our toddler’s mind. Elaine’s mom came over and she and Sienna had a grand time going for a walk and picking dandelions as Daddy tried to do some work – actually write a blog for the first time in forever as Elsa and Anna say in Frozen which we’ve now watched at least 10 times.
Sienna’s napping now and it’s peaceful. No bad dreams. No flies. The previous night is over but it left me with so many lessons and feelings.
One lesson is obvious: it’s way too early to introduce Sienna to Brundlefly.
A version of this post recently appeared on his blog, Raising Sienna.