I just had my first taste of impotently comforting one of my children as a piece of her little life fractured.
The backstory, in brief: A daycare friend made the switch to preschool a few weeks back, and all of a sudden P. must have come to the realization that she really wouldn't ever be coming back. The sadness was like an avalanche.
She sobbed in bed and I held her, trying to explain that we could plan playdates and that they would still see one another in ballet when what P. really wanted was for there to be some way to go back in time to before things changed.
Now in the grand scheme of things - carried over a lifetime - it's such a minor hurt. But when the whole of your world is just a handful of people and places, having to say goodbye to even one must be beyond heartbreaking.
And then I was in tears myself because there was very little I could do for her in that moment except listen to her and hold her. And there will be so many more painful somedays to come when all I'll be able to do is listen to her and hold her - and then there will come a time when she won't want that and then there will be literally nothing I can do except watch.
At four years old, promises of "dance class and rainbow chocolate chip pancakes in the morning" work wonders. I don't know how I'll handle it when little pleasures no longer give her the strength to put aside her burden and slip off to quiet sleep.
This is the sort of stuff that people really ought to be told before they decide to have kids so they can make a truly informed decision.