Me: Sam, I'm not going to do the magic trick again.
Sam: But I want you to do the magic trick, mommy, to keep the monsters away.
I planned ahead for this. She's five now - she can be reasoned with, right?
Me: Remember I told you last night that it would be the last time, because I didn't want to get in the habit of doing it every night?
Sam: But I'm scared of the monsters.
By this time, she has come halfway down the stairs and is talking to us through the railings. I have a brilliant idea:
Me: Well why don't you do a magic trick to keep them away.
Sam: Well, I can't do the magic, because I don't know how, and I can't do magic.
I try being firm:
Me: Well, I'm not doing it again. You need to go back to your room.
Sam: But I'm scared of the monsters!
We repeat the same arguments back and forth about five times. This isn't working. I remember something that has worked in the past:
Me: Well, I can't do anything about that. If there is something specific you need from me, please let me know. But I told you I can't do the magic trick anymore, and I can't make you not afraid. That is something you have to figure out for yourself.
Sam: But, MOMMY! I can't sleep.
Me: I can't make you go to sleep either. That is something you have to do on your own.
Adam thinks he has the solution:
Adam: If you can't sleep you can play with your toys or read your books, but you have to go back to your room.
Sam: But, DADDY!
Oh god, this is escalating. Am I going to have to get up and put her back into her room and then listen to her scream for an hour?
Sam: Mommy, you said that if I was every really scared, I could always come out and tell you.
Me: Yes, and you just told me. Good night.
Sam: Good night.
Me: See you in the morning.
Sam [retreating up the stairs]: See you in the morning.
A moment passes as Adam and I listen to the sound of her bedroom door quietly closing. Then we look at each other with dropped jaws. Now, that was magic!