Thump thump thump I hear at 7:45 at night. ThumpthumpthumpsqueeeekTHUMP I walk up the stairs quietly, see a set of dark brown eyes peering at me from behind a bedroom door cracked open. Quick surprised inhalation of air and she bolts back to her bed.

As I walk into her room she’s scrambling up the step stool and trying to get herself in the blankets before she’s officially busted for being out of bed. Her legs spin like propellers, not actually touching the step stool of bed frame and yet somehow she gets up. lays down quickly, peers at me from under her long lashes to gauge exactly how much trouble she’s in right now. You have to sleep, baby, I tell her, You need your rest. I gently rub my hand across her face and tuck the blankets in around her little body. She takes my hand and clasps it against her cheek. Stay with me, she pleads in her innocent and sleepy voice, and then she pulls my thumb out and pops it into her mouth, sucking. Stay with me forever.

I lay beside her and rub her back and on so many levels of strict parenting and independent sleeping this is the absolute wrong thing to do, but who cares in this moment of absolute devotion. Our devotion to each other.

My heart swells and grows, I swear it does, and her body relaxes, I know she’ll sleep soon. I rub her back on top of her fuzzy pink blanket and I tell her how much I love her.

I’m getting big now, Mommy! I’m not a baby anymore, she tells me. I whisper husshhhhhussshhhhhush in a low and quiet tone and she closes her eyes, slowly, gently and then, in a moment, she is sleeping.

I stay a bit longer, absorbing the warmth of her body, the firmness behind her blanket, the thumpthumpthump of her heart.

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