I don’t pretend that my life is especially difficult. But balancing school and work and family can be a real headache at times. My wife is finishing her master’s degree while working full time, so I spend much of the day with our 2-year old, Katie. She definitely gets priority over law school, but I still have to keep up with classes. Most of my reading happens after Katie goes to bed, which makes for some pretty late nights. When assignments are due, I know to expect that low throbbing pain to work its way up my shoulders, into my head.
Still, I almost always look forward to Katie’s bedtime ritual, even though every minute I read books to her is a minute of sleep I’ll never get back. But last week we had one pretty tough day together, and by nighttime, I was too tired even for Dr. Seuss. Katie had been to the pediatrician for vaccinations, and they made her feel just lousy.
We took our usual pre-bedtime bath, and I could see where the shots had gone into her thigh. There was some red swelling. She pointed and said “Owee, Daddy.” Her little voice can break my heart, especially when it says she’s in pain. It was time for some fatherly magic – I went into the medicine cabinet and got a sheet of twenty tiny butterfly stickers from next to the Band-Aids. With all the fake seriousness I could muster, I peeled one off and stuck it where the shot had gone. “All better,” I said.
She smiled weakly. I got her jammies on, turned off the lights, and tucked her into bed. “Lorax?” she asked, hoping I’d read her favorite Dr. Seuss book. “Not tonight honey,” I said. I laid down beside her and sang songs with my eyes closed.
I don’t know how much time passed, but I awoke in the dark. I could hear Katie’s breathing, and knew she was asleep. And my head – it didn’t hurt at all. The skin felt tight, but the ache was gone. I got up, leaned over to kiss Katie’s cheek, and quietly left. I stopped in the bathroom to splash some water on my face, and looked into the mirror. And there, stuck to my forehead, were 19 magical butterflies.