One night:

Alison, exhausted, backing out of Arlo’s room and closing the door: “Good night, buddy! I love you.”

Arlo: “You know, Mommy, I get scared at night after you leave.”

Alison (inner sigh): “You do? Why is that, do you know?”

Arlo: “It’s my BRAIN! It just thinks things that creep me out!”

Alison (mustering energy from the depth of the day’s reserves): “Oh, yeah? Like what?”

Arlo: “I don’t want to tell you! It’s about YOU!”

Alison: “Really? Now I’m super curious! Please tell me. I’m prepared to hear about the creepiness, and when I’m freaked out, it always helps me to talk about it. Will you try?”

Arlo: “Ok, FINE. It was a spell that was supposed to hit me but it hit you instead, and it made your hair turn black. There’s a lot more but that’s a short way to tell it.”

Alison: “Wow! That sounds like it would make an awesome fiction story! We should write it together! Could we do that? Maybe you could tell me the long version, every single detail, and I can write it down in that spiral notebook you have downstairs. Could we do that this weekend? It could be the first spooky story in our family spooky story book!”

Arlo: “Yeah! I will need help writing it all down, though.”

Alison: “Yes, I said I’d be happy to do the actual recording if you’d like. Now, do you know what the opposite of a spell is? What acts against a spell to dispel it, to undo it?”

Arlo: “No! What?”

Alison: “A wish! So, to make that creepy thought about the spell go out of your brain, we can make a wish to take its place. Let’s both make wishes. I’ll go first: I wish the washing machine will get fixed soon and it won’t cost a lot of money. Ok, it’s your turn. What do you wish?”

Arlo: “I wish for you to sleep well tonight.”

Let this conversation stand as evidence that anyone who says parenting isn’t a kind of sorcery has never tried to leave a child’s room at night while said child is not yet asleep. When wielded well, words are magic wands. Nightlights can’t hold a candle to conversation. Parents, you are all powerful magicians. Keep on shining that light.

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