‘Lie still,’ says my youngest to her doll, ‘I’m putting coconut oil on Lemonthyme,’ she says by way of explanation (her doll’s name is Clementine, but over time it’s become Lemonthyme). She up-ends the green drink bottle into her hand, the water coating her hands, then she rubs her hands together, and smears it all over her dolls arms and legs, and belly and face.
‘See, I’m pretending this water is coconut oil,’ she says. ‘Now turn over Lemonthyme, I need to do your back.’
‘You’ve already done her back,’ says her sister. It’s true, this is the second time Lemonthyme is being coated from head to toe in my youngest water for the night. But my youngest doesn’t care for details like that. She is being the Mama, and it’s her favourite game.
‘Now I’ll do your bottom,’ she says, rubbing thoroughly. I wonder what her teachers must think of me at her school if she does this there. Do they think I spend this much time on her bottom? I swear I don’t.
It’s sweet, this tending, this caring, this loving, that she is displaying. I feel humbled. I know I’m not as caring as she is. I pull the blankets up under her chin and sing her bedtime song, brushing her hair back from her face, the fine tendrils, so soft to touch. I lean over, kiss her goodnight, and as I climb into my bed, for the girls are camping out in my room, a vain attempt on my part to try and get more sleep, I hear her singing to her doll. The same goodnight song, followed by the same kiss.
‘I need new pyjamas,’ says my youngest, ten minutes later. ‘Mine are wet.’