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Night Night, Elmo (And Other Practice Parenting)

Maddie has taken pretend mothering to a
whole new level, and I’m not sure where all this will end.

In addition to all the other things she does for Elmo, Maddie now
has an exact replica of her own nighttime routine that she
steadfastly performs for him. I mean, she’s always put her
dolls and Elmos to bed, in a sort of, “Here you go Elmo! Time
to get in your cradle! Here’s the covers! Night Night!”
kind of way. But over the past few days she’s been intensely
interested in making it as exactly like her own routine as

So here’s where we stand now:

Elmo is told it’s almost time for bed. He’s given the
2-minute warning, then rounded up for night-night. A duplicate CD
of Maddie’s bedtime music plays on the stereo system as his
pj’s (an old pair of Cora’s) are laid out on the
“changing table” exactly the way Maddie’s are
laid out for her. Before the pj’s, though, comes the
sleepytime lotion: in Maddie’s case, her California Baby
lotion, but in Elmo’s case, an empty container and pretend

Once Elmo’s had his massage, Maddie lays his pjs out on the
“changing table” exactly as her own are prepared. As
Maddie dresses him, she’s doing the Mommy Chatter that goes
with it: “One arm, now two arms through! Where’s that
head? Where’s Elmo? There he is! Now one leg, now two legs!
Good job.”

Finally dressed and content, Elmo is at last in his rocking chair
with a small blanket covering his lap. You see, Maddie reads one
book in her chair and one book in her bed, and while in the chair
she must have a light blanket over her legs tucking her feet in.
And since the adult sits on the ottoman across from Maddie to read,
Maddie sits on her poofy pillow across from Elmo to read.

Getting frightened yet of the intensity of this thing?

Just wait.

Ok, so now he’s moved to his bed. Sometimes Elmo wants a
big-girl bed (large floor pillow) while sometimes he wants his crib
(doll cradle). Either way, Elmo’s gently placed in bed and
tucked in carefully under his miniature quilt, with his miniature
pillow under his head and his miniature stuffed animals at his head
(just like Maddie). Once the second book’s been read, Maddie
says prayers with Elmo, makes sure he’s still holding on to
his miniature Silky, and is ready to let him sleep.

Now comes all the Mommy work Maddie must do. First, she must turn
Elmo’s light(s) off. During the day, we use the spotlight
over her kitchen and a plug-in nightlight with an off switch to
accomplish this, but at night Maddie insists on actual darkness. So
out go all the lights in the living room.

And finally, Maddie must make sure Elmo’s monitor is working.
Yep, his monitor. I had to scramble to come up with something on
that front, and we ended up with a walkie talkie turned on so the
static sounded like the a/c coming over Cora’s monitor. And
before you berate me for letting her play with a piece of
electronics, let me assure you that I tried every other way but my
kid will not be fooled by a colorful piece of plastic. And since
all she wants to do is turn it on, listen to make sure it’s
working, and walk away, I’m ok with that.

So there you have it – a fifteen minute ordeal – I
mean, game. Maddie went through the whole ritual last night right
before her own bedtime, and as she walked away from the dark living
room and the ostensibly sleeping Elmo, she said tenderly,
“Night night, Elmo. Love you.” And as she went to bed,
hopefully comforted in the knowledge that Elmo was asleep just a
couple doors down.

As I watch such a scenario play out, I am once again humbled by the
sheer volume of information Maddie observes and absorbs. Kids
really do watch and record – even subconsciously – our
every interaction with them. So in a way, these little
re-enactments she does serve to highlight for me what she considers
important – what makes an impression on her. And as annoying
as this whole game can be sometimes when you’re not in the
mood, at least Maddie’s Mommy Chatter doesn’t sound
like this: “You get your fanny back to that room right now,
missy! I am tired tonight, do NOT try to push my buttons.
That’s it, I’ve had it with you. I am not playing

Just today Maddie had to have a long talk with Elmo about
disobedience while he sat in his stroller. I strained to hear the
entire conversation, to see if she considered my explanations
unfair or incomplete. But she calmly laid out the rules for Elmo,
and explained that actions have consequences and he needs to obey
Mommy and Daddy and Gamma and Maddie or accept those consequences.
Then she told him she’s very proud when he obeys.

Then she happily yanked him out of the stroller by his eyeballs and
made scrambled eggs with him.

I’m pretty sure I don’t do that.


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