Everything is changing. Since I forget so much I decided to write down our nightly routine, a snapshot of our evenings. I have a feeling they are going to change soon.
After work we go to the park. We walk and discuss the day. Jenn and I each grab one of Penelope’s hands. She uses the opportunity to jump. Landing must recharge her enthusiasm. She repeats this a several times before she walks again. When she runs Jenn and I hold her hands, a construction paper cutout of a family come to life.
Back home we make smoothies, sit at the table, and relax. Jenn and I are both exhausted. We know the pattern. We’ve worked out the duties, almost silently. Marital telepathy.Typically Jenn makes dinner while I watch Penelope. Penelope gets a puzzle, her monkey and teddy bear, a blanket, and the floor mat to play on. We listen to music and play. Everyone washes their hands. When we eat Jenn and I look at Penelope. Jenn and I always finish eating before Penelope. Without a word one of us gets up and starts cleaning while Penelope eats.
After dinner it’s time to “splish splash”.Penelope opens the linen closet door and pulls out her toys, one by one. “Towel” she says if I haven’t already grabbed a washcloth. I kneel by the tub and look over at the open closet. Her hand emerges, holding a toy. I grab it and place it in the water. Another look, another toy. I grab it. We repeat until all the tub toys are floating, a pool party on the set of Sesame Street.
She puts her hands in the air like Superwoman before take off. Instead of Penelope lifting off her shirt flies up, like a reverse rapture. Next her pants and diaper. I pick her up over my head long enough for her to see how beautiful she is in the medicine cabinet mirror. “MEERWOW” she exclaims when she sees herself. Seconds later her feet make contact with the water. She kneels, picks up a toy, and starts playing.
I pour water over Penelope’s head. The water streams into her face and her hands rush to wipe it away. She seems annoyed, her mouth contorting into a toothy grimace I grab the baby wash and get to work. Starting with her hair I begin to scrub until she’s lathered. All the while she plays, pretends to swim, or lies on her back, waiting to kick off and slide to the back of the tub with daddy’s hand under her head.
After rinsing off I grab one of her towels; yellow duck or purple cat. I dry her as quickly as possible. We apply various oils and creams, depending on skin conditions. A diaper and jammies go on, sometimes with ease, sometimes frustration. Occasionally Penelope will decide to clamp her legs shut, a skill we hope she employees in her teenage years. It makes diaper application impossible. Her legs are like iron jaws I’m trying to pry open. Eventually I’m successful.
Next we give a squirt of Little Noses to dislodge any loose “boogies” . I grab her toothbrush, apply toothpaste, and hand it to Penelope. I dry her hair while she brushes her teeth. Mama shows up and cleans the bathroom, putting toys away, taking the dirty diaper, or helps Penelope finish her teeth.
We step into the hall and Penelope says goodnight to the cats, reaching down to pet the closest one. In her room we grab “The Going to Bed Book” by Sandra Boynton. Jenn finds a chair while I sit on the floor, two islands of stillness in relations to Penelope’s pinball bouncing around the room from bookcase to table to chair and back again. We read the story, or rather recite from memory Boynton’s tale of animals adrift at sea, biding their time exercising, bathing, and brushing teeth. She points out “LION!” or “ZHUZHU” (pig in Chinese) when she sees them.
As we approach the end of the book Penelope moves to her rocking chair. We repeat the last lines “they rock, and rock, and rock to sleep”. Though we’ve read these words every night and every afternoon for the last four months they have not gone stale. Penelope rocks in her chair and whispers or yells “they rock, they rock, they rock”. Her enthusiasm for this brief part of the book never ceases to fill us with joy and laughter.
With the book back on the shelf I scoop Penelope up and bring her close to mama. Penelope wraps one arm around Jenn’s neck and the other around mine like a monkey grasping two tree trunks. She pulls on Jenn’s neck and gives her a hug. Sometimes she even gets a kiss. Penelope uses the opportunity to move mama and daddy close together so we will kiss. We comply without hesitation, then plants a kiss on her cheeks. It’s not exaggeration to say this moment makes any hardship seem trivial.
Jenn leaves the room while Penelope and I hold each other. I walk to the light switch decorated with stars, the moon, and four cats. Penelope will lean over, put a finger on a star and say “stah” or point to a cat and say “meow”.
“It’s time to turn out the light”.
She knows the day is done. She hesitates with a finger on the switch. The switch goes down, lights go out, leaving the illumination from her bedtime turtle light, cool stars and a blue moon projected on the walls and ceiling. As I carry her to the crib I hold her close, her arms around me.
She rests her head on my shoulder for a moment. As she lifts her head I kiss her cheek and slowly lower her into bed. Her arm extends out, searching for the button to the Ocean Wonder attached to the crib. Her hand hits the button and a soft blue and orange glow illuminates a fish forever swimming to music. I grab her blanket and lift it through the air. It drifts down, glances her belly, lifts up, and drifts down again. Penelope laughs until I lower the blanket for the evening.
I place my hand on her head and smooth her hair back. “I love you. See you tomorrow sweetie”. She looks up at me, waiting for me to exit so she can have time to sing to herself and play with her blanket.