Sarah Rochel is finishing up her bath. Her hair is full of shampoo in a delicate fanned mohawk, her armpits ("ahm pit!") are sudsy, her nails are clipped and her toothbrush is forgotten in the bathwater (we sometimes brush teeth in the tubby).
"Bye bye water!" she says.
"Okay, bye bye water," I reply, and pull the plug. I rinse her off with the washing cup, letting Sarah Rochel take several turns pouring the water off herself. She giggles greatly - except when I'm rinsing her hair.
"Atoes!" she cries. "That's right, Sarah Rochel," I answer, "you're my sack of potatoes," and I bundle her up into the towel.
"Abba sukka," she says as we walk into her room and see the porch out the window. "Abba sukka," I agree, as I start to towel her off. I comb out her hair ("Ow!"), and while she chews alternately on her gum stimulator ("Mine! MINE!") and her rubbery letter (A, her favorite), I massage and moisturize her - and she repeats after me, "thigh, knee, calf, feet, toes." I put on her pajamas - she puts her arms through the holes with very little coaching. All this amidst giggles and burbles.
"Sarah Rochel, you know how you blow with your mouth?"
"Whoosh," she replies.
"Very good! So can you blow with your nose, like this?" [insert nose blowing sounds]
And she does it. Into a tissue. Okay, sure, nothing came out, but we're on our way.
"Sarah Rochel, do you want to read a book?"
"Okay, I've got your sippy cup of water and your blanky. Ready?"
"Yah," and she backs up to me sitting in the chair, like a truck backing in, ready for me to pick her up and set her next to me in the food chair - I'm sorry, not the food chair anymore, the book chair.
We read our Abraham Lincoln book twice. We read our belly button book twice. "Sarah Rochel, do you want to say shema or read another book?"
"Mah." Nod. "Mah." Nod. "Book, BOOK!" pointing at the shelf.
We read 'Goodnight Moon'. When I'm done, she turns the pages herself, going, "Moon. Cow. Moon. MOON! Bears." I start to say shema, and I peak through my fingers - she has started covering her eyes instead of her nose, albeit with her left hand.
"Sarah Rochel, do you want Mommy to hold you, or do you want to get in your cribby?" She chooses the crib. I put her in, and boy is this child not sleepy. "Baby evant," she says, pointing to the elephant on her sheet. "Star," pointing to it on the sheet too. "Dress," pointing to the pretty dresses hanging on her wall. I sing 'Hamalach' - she's still playing.
"Do you want to play in your crib for a while while Mommy goes in the kitchen?"
"Okay, I'll be back in a few minutes to turn off the light..." and I walk for the door. I open it, and the girl springs up from lying on her back, standing at her cribby bars like a jail cell, and "uh, uh, uh"'s until I come back. "Okay, but then we have to turn off the light. Say bye bye light!"
"Bye bye light." I turn it off. I choose a lullaby and start to sing. She waits a minute or so, then comes over to the side of the crib where I'm singing.
I pick her up, and she 'lays keppie' on my shoulder (still clutching 'Goodnight Moon'). We sit down to rock in the book chair. I sing 'Hush Little Baby' twice, completely forget the tune to 'Rockabye Baby' (too morbid anyway - I've never sung it to her before), and she pops her head up, starts wiggling toward the crib. "Sarah Rochel, do you want to go in your cribby?" "Yah."
I put her down on her back. I wish her goodnight, tell her I love her, I'm proud of her, ask Hashem to watch over her. I leave.
I close the door behind me, close the door on the perfect silence as my daughter puts herself to sleep, and I realize tonight is the transition night between going to sleep like a baby and going to sleep like a kid.
Oh, there have been nights lately when she goes to sleep in the crib - that is, she's not already sleeping when I put her down. There have been nights she asks to go into the crib. But tonight she was so totally aware and awake and conscious in every way of what was going on and what was coming next.
But this is it. She may relapse into babydom, into overtired hysterical kvetchies and "no cribby!" and "no sleep!" and howling. But essentially from now she will only become more and more self sufficient.
She's been insisting to eat at the table in a chair (or two of them stacked) for a couple days now - "No high chair!"
Those of you more familiar with small children are thinking, come on, she's 19 months old already - you expected her to be a baby forever?
Um, yeah. I think I did. I think I thought we were going to go baby-to-4-year-old all of a sudden. But being in the middle of the process is just mind blowing, cause you watch it happen.
About halfway through writing the above I heard her talking to herself in her room. She gave a couple of vague "Mommy?"'s but she didn't cry - and she's quiet now.
That's my big girl.