Lila knows that when I’m putting Maya to bed, it’s ‘quiet time’ in sister’s room. She can come in and out and play quietly with books or puzzles, but there’s no talking or loud noises.
For a three-year-old, she’s surprisingly respectful of this rule. Honoring it with an air of self-importance — as if she’s in on a special secret or privilege. She must be able to recognize that by 7 p.m., mom’s hanging on by a thread, and it’s all hands on deck to get the wee one to sleep.
Usually she plays by herself in the living room, since it’s not all that entertaining to sit quietly in a dark room, but one night last week she hung out with me while I fed Maya. She has this enthralling way of playing right now — whispering to herself and darting around, making up silly voices and acting out stories only she understands.
At one point, she was standing on a short stool, when it tipped backward and her chin hit the edge of Maya’s dresser. I froze during the following three-second window. The window every parent knows. The one that determines whether the next moment will contain an oblivious bounce right back to playing, or, a slowly escalating scream.
It was dark, but I could see that she had bitten her tongue, and her eyes started filling with tears. She was silent though, so I was thrown as to how badly she was actually hurt. What happened next made my heart nearly explore.
She stepped down off the stool, and very slowly walked out of Maya’s room into the hallway, hands on her mouth, clearly holding back sobs. It wasn’t until she was halfway down the hallway that she burst into tears.
I got up and walked out to her, and through her cries she managed to get a few words out,
It really hurt.
I bit my tongue.
Didn’t. Want. To wake. Sister.
And it’s moments like this one that make every single difficult one fade into non-existence, a thousand times over.
To see a little one demonstrate such restraint. To see her love for her sister materialize.
To know that you’re raising a tiny human with a huge, huge heart.