Sure, it's been six months since Mademoiselle stopped nursing to sleep at night and I was no longer indispensable, but I could still read a storybook as well as Daddy. Just like him I could hang out on the floor for an hour next to Mademoiselle's crib urging, pleading, and (in my worse moments) threatening her to sleep:
"Time for dodo now. I'll sing!"
"Dodo, [Mademoiselle]. Want me to rub your back?"
"Dodo right now, or Mommy leaves the room!"
Nothing I did was efficient or even all that effective, but at least I wasn't any worse at it than my husband. Meanwhile, Le Petit, who now shares a room with Mademoiselle, also stopped going to sleep without parental intervention. Which didn't matter much beyond principle, really, since we were mostly in the room anyway... until we'd get fed up and leave, and then he would pursue us in the living room, advocating on his sister's behalf and complaining (with reason) that he couldn't possibly sleep with his sister kicking up such a fuss.
Bedtimes became protracted. About the only good thing for the parent directly involved was the knowledge that when they staggered out of the room an hour or more after lights out they'd be off the hook for kitchen cleanup duty.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, my husband invented two miraculous bedtime stories.
The first one, about a salmon named Vanille Fraise (Vanilla Strawberry), involves caves, suitcases, an ice cream truck accident, and other psychedelic details that even my husband can't explain. The second is more straightforward. An enchanting fairy tale saga undertaken by a rabbit: Jeannot Lapin and the Golden Carrot. Jeannot crosses a field of birds, a fox prairie, a beaver pond, and winds up in a cave where... OK, so it isn't all that fascinating, but it has both my children spellbound, night after night. Spellbound, calm, and more or less ready to drift off to sleep at the end. The Golden Carrot indeed.
Tonight Le Petit invented his own postscript:
"So Jeannot married the princess. But then his bed was too small! Too small to share! So he went to IKEA in the suburbs of Carrotville, where bought a big bed, big enough for two. He took it home, put it together, and now they can both go dodo together."
Meanwhile, Mademoiselle showed off her knowledge of ornithology. When my husband explained that birds were attacking Jeannot, not nice birds like most birds but birds who like to eat rabbits, she interrupted him with a loud cry of "Arrête!" She then explained in her cute unconjugated way, "Aigle et vautour manger lapin!" [Eagle and vulture eat rabbit]
Of course, Dad. Like, be precise already. Not just any birds. Raptors.
During all this, I was stuck doing the dishes. Again.
(I love you Jeannot. Really.)