They say babies like their routines – that doing the same stuff the same way at the same time every night is a comfort thing, a means of exerting a little control over an environment that is otherwise beyond their power to control. Either that’s extra true in Baby Dog’s case or she’s inherited some of the old man’s compulsive tendencies. We’ve long had our bedtime routines, but I’ve been noticing lately that the routines are accumulating like barnacles. We add new wrinkles, but none of the old ones ever get ironed out.
The basic bedtime routine for a long time has been: 1) bath time; 2) stories with Mummy; 3) night-night songs with Daddy, then into the sleep sack and a short period of chattering in the crib before sleep. The concert repertoire has evolved over the months. Right now, the stand-byes are “Whistling Gypsy,” which we sing in a duet, and “Thunder Road,” which I do solo pausing occasionally for Baby Dog to fill in blanks. (Daddy: “Roy Orbison singin’ ‘For the Lonely’/Hey, that’s me and I want you…” Baby Dog: “Only!”) At some point, and I’m not sure when, the routine grew to encompass a post-singing ritual that we call “Our Tour,” or sometimes “Touching Things.” I pick Baby Dog up and we circumambulate her room. She has a number of pictures on her walls and on her dresser, and Baby Dog touches them each in turn, calling out their names. This started out with her wanting to touch the piggy drawing or the bunny rabbit drawing; every time I’d set her down she’d remember a different picture she could touch. I decided that if we just went around and touched all of them there would be a greater sense of closure and she wouldn’t have an excuse to get back up at the end. It’s worked like a charm, though of course the route of The Tour has grown to include more and more stops as time has gone by. Here’s the path as it stands now (the script varies only at a geologic pace):
First we go to the Iwao Akiyama print (not this one, but it’s representative
) of the owl and the moon that hangs above the changing pad. First Baby Dog touches the owl and says “Owl” while I say “Hoo! Hoo!” Then she touches the moon and says “Moon!” while I remain silent. Then we go over by the garbage can where Mama Dog’s crayon portrait of Peter Rabbit eating a carrot is hung low, where Baby Dog can touch it as she toddles about the room. “Who’s down here?” I ask. “Rabbit!” Baby Dog exclaims, as I make rabbit noises. Then she touches the carrot and says “Carrot!” Next to that is a picture of Mama Dog with a background photoshopped by her father. “Who’s up here?” I ask. Baby Dog touches the picture, for some reason always hitting just to the left of Mama Dog’s face, and says, “Mummy!” “What does Mummy say?” I ask. “I love you Baby Dog!” Baby Dog exclaims. Then we go over to the armoire, where just in the last few days I’ve started saying, “I guess we should touch the doggies.” The “doggies” in fact are just random burls in the wood of the armoire, but when she was much smaller, first learning to talk, Baby Dog apparently decided they looked like dog faces and started calling them that. So she touches the doggies and I say “Woof woof.” Then I hoist her up so that she can reach the Crate and Barrel box that sits on top of the armoire. “What’s up here?” I ask. She stabs a finger on the capital C and exclaims “C!” Then for some reason she goes all the way to the end of the word and touches the little e, exclaiming “e!” From there, she works her way backwards: “t! a! r!” You’ll have to ask her why she does it that way, but she always does. Then we go around the corner of the armoire to the other side of the box, and I saw, “And what’s around here?” Baby Dog continues, at this point always unfailingly in the correct order: “Ampersand!” (Yes, she actually says “ampersand.”) “B! a! r! r! e! l!” Then we exclaim together “Crate and Barrel!” From there, we go to the cow calendar that hangs over her dresser, and she touches the current month’s cow. “Who’s up there?” I ask. “Cow!” she replies, and I add the colour commentary: “Moo!” Then we crouch down by the side of the dresser where there are two more Mama Dog portraits: a pig on top and an itsy bitsy spider on bottom. “Who’s down here?” I ask. “Piggie!” “Oink oink, snort, snort,” I add. I drop her down a little. “Who’s down here?” For some reason, Baby Dog makes an unintelligible reply each and every time, and I have to say “Who’s
down there?” again before she clearly says “Spider!” and I can add “Itsy bitsy!” At this point, we’re in the home stretch. We go to the foot of the crib, where a card with a picture of a pinecone hangs. “What’s over here?” I ask. She touches the card and says, “Pinecone!” At that point, I swoop her onto her back for descent into the crib and bundling into the sleep sack. As I do so, we have a final jubilant chorus which has evolved into four lines that we trade off on kind of randomly. They are: “We touched everything!” “We’re good everything touchers!” “Yay us!” “Yay Baby Dog and Daddy!”
Now, you’d think that would be more than enough routine to satisfy a troupe of rain men, but like I say we keep accumulating new action items. The last few nights have apparently cemented in Baby Dog’s mind the need for a musical encore to come down from the frenzied climax of the picture-touching tour. The funny thing is, the song she always wants is about as unlikely a baby-quieter as you’ll find, but it always works to bring her down. Every night at this point, she asks me to sing her “BINGO.” The one about the dog, with the clapping. This is supposed to be a rousing audience participation song, but for some reason it sends Baby Dog quietly to bed, even after she’s clapped my hands for me through the entire song. I don’t even know where she learned the damn song. Daycare, I suppose. It’s been so long since I’ve heard it performed I can never remember if I’m supposed to be dropping letters off at the start or the end of the song, and I find myself switching it around from verse to verse. I haven’t done clap-I-N-G-clap yet, but it’s been close.