“In black and white, a couple holds hands while encircling their baby's hand.” by Annie Theby on Unsplash

My daughter has night terrors.

It’s better now than it was a few months ago, when she would wake in the night shrieking at some unseen fear. When we were trying to figure out what would help, our doctor instilled the importance of a routine. The same every night, rarely even deviating by 15 minutes if we can help it.

At bedtime, she needs her seven favorite stuffies to feel safe. We tuck her in with “white blanket,” a shaggy receiving blanket with silk edges. She still asks for a bottle of milk most nights, but we’re working on that.

Every night we read three books and say a special poem, our agnostic version of prayer. She usually asks me to read the version that I wrote, followed by the one that her grandmother wrote. Sometimes she asks for it twice. Then she wants “a big hug, a kiss, and a high five.”

Most nights now she falls asleep in her bed and stays. Occasionally though, we have a rough one. Then my checklist switches to the one I use when navigating a tantrum. She’s two, after all.

Our son sleeps beautifully.

He still nurses to sleep in my arms, but won’t drift off until the room is dark, still, quiet. When he’s eating, one hand always reaches for my face or grasps a fistful of his own dark hair. He likes sleeping on his stomach, which scares me. I check on him too often to see that he is breathing. Hovering silently about his crib, my hand resting just so on his back.

He’s been sick, so he needs saline drops before going down. He likes the blue knit blanket. His favorite binky is the giraffe, not the lion.

Every parent has these lists, this deep specific knowledge of their babies.

We know them inside and out, to their cores, in a way that no other person could. I know how to comfort them, I know what sounds and phrases mean which thing. I know what makes them giggle, what makes them feel safe, what makes them behave. I get uncomfortable if we can’t pick them up from daycare before 5:30.

They need to be with us; any other scenario would be unfathomable.

Immigrant children are no different, no less special, no less deserving. They have special blankets, bedtime prayers. Their parents have lists like this, things that only they know, ways that only they know how to comfort their babies.

Tonight a story broke about immigrant infants and toddlers being kept in “tender age” detention centers after being ripped away from their families.

It’s unimaginably cruel what is happening.

I think of knowing my child was out there — crying, scared — and being unable to fix it. I think about the fact this is happening hundreds of times over tonight. We can’t look away from it. It’s not unimaginable, it’s real.

I think about being separated during the “tender age” when their brains and bodies develop so quickly that week to week you have a whole new kid on your hands; one report I read said parents seeking asylum are looking at a minimum of six weeks apart from their children, if their legal appeals go 100% perfectly. I think about the memories knitting together in our two-year-old and which ones will stick; in another story, I read about early childhood trauma causing permanent lifelong damage.

I think about whether anyone is reading those kids a bedtime story and my stomach knots. About what happens when one of them is sick, or needs diaper cream, or wakes up screaming and the only person who knows exactly how to fix it isn’t coming. I think about whether any of those mothers can breathe or if every minute is just one long panic attack. I think about leaving everything we know and risking our lives for their future, and then losing them possibly forever. The thought makes me want to sink into the floor and die.

This is not right. It is monstrous. We have to stop it.