Before the day starts, in the small hours when waking means lying awake, you came to me with a pain in your leg. The pain of growing. Your bones and ligaments, muscles adjusting to each other. A dull aching that never achieves sharpness but whose intensity—lying awake—rises and rises until unbearable. I remember it.

The night’s pains are the day’s unmasked. The stimulus of a day—its sounds, sights, intentions, interaction with other people—will crowd out dull pains. But in the darkness, like a faithless lover, attention frustrated of action gives itself to the body and its appendage, soul. Not an amorous sporting, desperate self-gratification, rough and cold. An old couple, she knows where it hurts. The dull pain was there before. With attention, it now cannot be borne.

I remember it.

You creep to me for comfort—the warm body and warm smell of a father. And I love to comfort you. But the pain grows. So I take you into the kitchen to give you some paracetamol. Half a tab, for an eight year old. But you have had paracetamol once before, perhaps a year ago? And the bitterness burnt your tongue. And in the harsh fluorescent light of a kitchen at 4am, you fall to the floor pleading no. You cringe away. The fear grips you and your mind dissolves in front of me. The blind, downstairs brain taking over completely. And the combination of you fighting me away, and your fear, and your piteous cries for help… like an acid burning my heart.

I want to help you. But its 4am. I try to hug and hold you to help you settle, but you are gone. I am angry, frustrated, I tell you I have no other help and send you back to bed still crying. Both helpless. And now we lie awake in our own beds, each with our own ache.

Later I realise where love failed. I offered help but couldn’t abide its refusal. Helplessness—too feared—so I sent you away to save myself. Not staying and suffering with you — suffering my own suffering to stay with you in yours. A broken image of a Father, I am.

So pray for this:
That we creep us together
Into the bed of Him who suffers to stay;
And there find comfort for our growing pains.