I’m going to China early tomorrow morning, and my niece Elaina, only two months into being three, is getting ready for bed. We’ve had an extended Easter weekend with both sides of Elaina’s family, and Elaina has been very happy about it. But now it’s over. I hug her, tell her goodbye for the morning. She starts crying. “I wish you didn’t have to go to China!” she sobs. Her voice is high and growly by turn, adorable even when she’s sad.
I pick her up and ask if she wants me to snuggle her for a few minutes before bed. She says yes, so I carry her upstairs and tuck her in. I tell her I’m going to China for a conference, and then I explain what a conference is. I point out that her dad also goes to conferences, different kinds of conferences. “There’s lots of conferences in the world,” I say.
Somehow this turns into a discussion about all the kinds of things there are in the world, like water. I tell her we’re fortunate to have clean water to drink, because not everyone does. “But maybe we could give them some of ouws,” says Elaina seriously. “Yes,” I agree “Maybe we can. I’m glad you want to give them some.” I wonder, briefly, if she will always want this.
Chloe, age four, comes in and gets into her little bed. The girls sleep in the same room, wouldn’t dream of sleeping elsewhere, but there isn’t room for two full-size beds, so Chloe has her toddler bed still. But tonight Chloe is feeling jealous of Elaina’s bigger bed, and says so. I ask Elaina if Chloe can come cuddle with us for a few minutes, and Elaina says no, she doesn’t want to scoot over.
“But Elaina,” I say “We were just talking about sharing water with people who need it, and here’s Chloe right here.”
Elaina sits up soberly. Her fine, straight hair falls across her forehead. “I was thinking,” she says, pronouncing her th with great care, “maybe we could make a big bed fow Chloe.”
She climbs out of her bed and begins to run her tiny, soft hands over the bottom sheet. She is gentle and methodical. “I’m making a bed fow sweetness and kindness,” she says. She is involved in her own kind of magic, and I watch her awhile. Finally I ask if she wants to make this bed for Chloe with Chloe’s blankets and pillow. She says yes. So Chloe and Elaina trade beds, dragging their respective special blankets. I tuck Elaina in and kiss her on the forehead. “That was very kind,” I tell her “I’m very proud of you.”
I tell the girls that I’ll be sleeping across the hall, that I’ll leave my door open. “What if I have a tick?” Elaina asks. “Then I will help you,” I say “But you don’t have to worry, you don’t have a tick.”