After she put the sheet and the quilt on her new toddler bed, Ella picked up her blankie, unfolded it and struggled to arrange it to her liking.
It used to be folded in half and hung over the now missing crib rail, just like in the baby furniture catalogs.
"Do you want help?" I asked.
"Yes." I could hear the frustration in her voice.
I folded it in half and spread it at the foot of her quilt.
"No! Up there!"
"But we used to hang it on the railing, right here. If we spread it out over the quilt we won't be able to see the pretty flowers."
She climbed onto the bed. Thinking she was getting in a better position to help me arrange the blankie at the foot of the bed, I refolded it and laid it there.
She began to panic and then lay down the way she usually sleeps.
"No!" she was crying.
It struck me.
"You still get to sleep with your blankie! Don't worry! Do you want to try lying down under the covers?"
"Yeah," she agreed in that way crying people do when they are being calmed.
She got off the bed and I folded her sheets back, like turn down service in a hotel. She crawled in. "Get all comfy!" I encouraged as I always do. Then, I covered her and laid the blankie over her quilt and rubbed her back as usual.
"Is that better? See, you still get to sleep with your blankie, even in a big-girl bed."
She smiled, got out of the bed and left the room. As she was leaving, I said, "Hey, you have to make your bed before you leave the room!" But she was gone, and I was happy to arrange my baby's bedding all by myself, like I used to do for her crib.
Throughout the evening, she would say, "I'm tired. I want to sleep."
"OK. Do you want to go to sleep right now? No dinner?"
She'd go on with what she was doing.
Later, "I'm tired. I want to sleep."
"Are you just saying that because you want to sleep in your big-girl bed?"
"Yes." We giggled and smiled at the cuteness, and she giggled back.
When it came time for bed, after our prayers and saying goodnight to the grandparents and friends in our wedding photos down the hallway, and wishing on a star, she went straight for her crib. I mean bed.
"Hey! We still have to do songs in the rocking chair!"
She stopped, turned, and walked over to it. When her lullabies were through, I picked her up, knowing I didn't have to carry her the few steps to her crib, I mean bed,but still wanting to hold her. Still wanting those arms around my neck and that weight of her body, still wanting my hug.
I put her down.
She climbed in and we saw her huge, beautiful, dimpled smile.
Two more lullabies. I didn't take them up-tempo as I sometimes do; I lingered over the notes I could reasonably hold.
"Good night! We love you!" We exited, stopping at the door as we must, so that she can lift her head and peek at us, blow us a kiss and say, "Bye-bye! I love you!"
Back in the living room, we hugged tight. Justin started to walk to his computer at the dining table, but I stayed, standing at the window, looking through the courtyard and through the hallway window, staring at her door. Waiting for it to open. He said something like, "She'll be fine. We'll hear her through the baby monitor..." I held up my hand to stop him, just wanting to be left alone as I usually am after I tuck her in when he's at work. He left, and I stared. Tears trickled down my cheeks.
When I finally went into the dining room, he looked at my teary face and joined me on the couch. I started to sob against his chest. "She doesn't need me anymore!"
He consoled, "That's silly. She still needs you to say prayers with her, and sing her songs, and give her water--and even though I hand her the cup and my hand is right there to take it back, she has to give it to you. She still needs you."
"But she's so big now. It's going by so fast!"
The baby monitor was silent. She slept. I wrote my blog. He checked the basketball scores and played a video game and watched a little TV. We drank wine. We went to bed.
"Do we have to switch sides?" His Marine Corps instinct to protect against intruders if he's awoken abruptly can be scary.
"No, I trained myself that if I wake up to this," and he tapped my arm gently and repeatedly, "it's Ella."
She woke only once, about 2:30 a.m., making some struggling noises that escalated slightly. Justin went in; he always does if he is at home, since if I do it she is more likely to want me to pick her up, to hold her, to begin her day. "Covers!" I heard her say, as she would if they were bunched up against the crib wall. We're trying to teach her to re-cover herself, but it's a tough skill to master.
He reported back: They were on the floor, she was still in bed. She repositioned herself on her tummy in her usual spot in the crib... bed... and went back to sleep.
I woke up at 7 a.m., peacefully, while they still slept.
She's up! It's 8:37! Gotta go.