Bedtime Stories

After book reading time and before bedtime, I tell Ingrid a story. For several months the stories were always about Yogurt Dog and featured details gleaned from Ingrid’s day (plus magical pairs of wings made out of leaves, snowflakes, or butterflies).

At the end of a hard day earlier this week, Ingrid and I looked at some of her baby pictures together, and I hit on another kind of story: It starts with Mama and Daddy wanting a baby very much, goes on (skipping all mention of genitalia or pharmaceuticals) to tell how happy we were to find out a tiny baby was growing inside of me, how long we waited for the baby to be ready to be born, and how happy we were when it turned out to be a beautiful baby girl named Ingrid. We wrap up the story with any number of sweet cozy details about Ingrid’s infancy (napping and nursing curled up on the couch). She beams, listening to it, and asks me to repeat it, sometimes five times in a row.

I’d told that story for the past half-dozen naps and bedtimes, with no response from Ingrid other than quiet, smiling listening. Tonight I added a little extra detail at the beginning of the story, and it took us somewhere fascinating:

Me: Once upon a time there was just Mama and Daddy and Lucy. There was no Ingrid and no Iris.

Ingrid: There was no Iris?

Me: Nope. There was no Ingrid and no Iris. And Mama and Daddy—

Ingrid: Where was Iris?

Me: Where was Iris? She wasn’t born yet. This was before you were born, and before Iris was born. And Mama and Daddy—

Ingrid: Where did she go?

Me: Well. She, um. You mean? Um, where did she…come from? She grew inside of Mama, just like you did. Remember when Iris was growing inside of Mama?

Ingrid: Mhm.

Me: So before you were born, and before Iris was born—

Ingrid: Was she at the hospital?

For three days we blew right through a story that started out “there was no you,” but the second I mentioned no baby sister, it became unfathomable. Wow. I spend my days worrying that we’ve ruined her life by bringing a little sister into it, and if left to her own devices she’d have bitten the poor baby’s ears off by now, but it turns out that she already can’t imagine a world without her.

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