Serena’s been a bit of a bedtime rebel lately. She’s mostly sleeping through the night, waking up only briefly to pee and get a glass of water around 2 a.m.
But she just not falling asleep at bedtime. She goes through the whole bath-book-bed routine with her dad and sister. Rio drops off to sleep like she’s under a fairy spell. Serena, not so much.
While we were in Arizona, I tried a few nights just leaving her in bed with a small lamp and a book. Which, to my very great amazement, worked.
She’d sit in there and “read” to herself for hours. One night I came in at midnight and found her face down asleep on a copy of Rapunzel. Oh, sweet girl. I get it. Books are that good.
Tonight, she came tippy-toeing down the stairs about twenty minutes after her dad had said good-night and turned the lights out. She was wearing stripey pyjamas and a hopeful, determined smile. There was no shooing that kid back upstairs.
“I looking for Princess Belle, Mama,” she said in her Very Cutest Voice.
Yes, little one, you’ve got my number. I will do anything for that smile and that cooing voice. Let’s go find your doll.
Belle was not in any of her usual hang-outs. Not in the dollhouse, not under the craft table, not shelved with the picture books. Martin said he’d seen her in the bathtub earlier this evening, so we went upstairs to look. Serena triumphantly threw the shower curtain open.
“No water! Mama, there no bath here.”
“Yes, well, there was before. Did you have Belle in the tub with you?”
There was a damp Barbie drying off along the edge of the tub. Not Belle. Ariel.
“No, that Ariel. I not looking for Ariel. I looking for Belle.”
I am impressed at her patience, faith and fortitude. Even I’m starting to feel a little anxious that Belle just won’t turn up and it’ll be Tantrum Time, but the kid is just calmly taking it all in stride.
We poke around her bedroom a little bit and find Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Jasmin, Snow White and the other Ariel.
“No. Me no looking for Mulan. Or Mulan’s dress. That my Ariel doll. This my sister Ariel doll. No me looking for Cinderella.”
The girls have exactly eight Princess Barbie dolls, and we have just found seven of them. Only Belle is missing. She meticulously lines them all up at the mirror as she narrates their failings. I start to wonder if I’m being played, but she seems so serious. She doesn’t stop to play with any of the other dolls, and she doesn’t get distracted from her search for even a moment. This is not a simple stall tactic. This is a kid on a mission.
We go back downstairs. She engages her father in earnest conversation while I take another pass through the play area. There. Passed out on the piano like a lush, it’s Belle. Wearing Snow White’s dress. Do I even want to know what those princesses get up to when we’re not looking?
Whatever. I get to be the hero for once. I hand her the doll, and watch her levitate just a little with joy as she wraps both arms around her and clasps her tight to her chest. She beams at me for a moment like I’m The Best Mother In The History Of The Universe.
Then without another word, she turns and walks upstairs with her doll. Her dad and I stand there and watch her go, a little awestruck. We listened to her patter down the hall, into her bedroom, and thump into bed. Then we exchanged the grateful, triumphant high fives of two tired parents who just got handed a get-out-of-bedtime-free card.
It’s been an hour and there’s been no more sound from her room.
I think she really just wanted her doll.