I wonder if anyone else's night-time ritual is as complicated or as fraught with potential upset as Gertie's?
It begins straightforwardly enough, with the evening meal, followed by a bath every other night and into pyjamas; then back downstairs for one, two, three, and on rare occasions when we have been slick and professional and are ahead of schedule, four episodes of Peppa Pig. (These are 'series-linked' to record automatically, providing an endless supply. I believe that we have 167 episodes saved. The joy of watching a previously-unseen one is unparalleled. I think that goes for me as well as Gertie...)
The quantity of episodes correlates directly with the number of minutes remaining before 6.50pm; which is the magic time by which we try to get upstairs for the bedtime story. Whilst Gertie is engaged with the final programme, I nip up with Gilby to give him his final bottle and put him to bed. He is generally very quick and easy (until about 1am, which is when he comes into his own, but that may be saved for another post).
Gertie chooses one or two books which Daddy usually reads. And it is after this that the complications begin. To indicate that we are summoned for the good-night-kiss, Daddy performs an elaborate stamping ritual on the floor of Gertie's bedroom. Everyone in the house now recognises this as the signal, and it includes anyone who may be around, however tenuous their link with Gertie. Any current visitor and occupant of the house must assemble in the bedroom, in line, to bestow their night-time greeting upon the waiting lady.
But there are some important rules of etiquette which must be observed. Sometimes, she will have insisted that Daddy 'hide' prior to our entrance. Whilst her bedroom is small, and it would be perfectly clear to anyone without severe visual impairment that Daddy is in fact stationed beneath the sofa bed (feet and most of his body protruding for all to see) or behind the door (a giveaway since it will not open properly), all must feign incredulity at Daddy 's disappearance. He must not be discovered too quickly for that will incur the wrath of Gertie.
A variation on this is for Gertie herself to hide. This will, without exception, mean that she is lying on her bed beneath her duvet, but because she is face down she believes that she is effectively hidden, and therefore entirely undetectable. Again, 'discovering' her whereabouts too early will invoke a tantrum too terrible to contemplate.
Once the 'hiding' has been safely navigated, and believe me, this is much easier said than done, the actual business of the kiss must be carefully performed. This is a ritual which extends and develops on virtually a daily basis. Gone are the days of a simple peck on the cheek whilst she is lying down. No. Currently, she must stand on the end of her bed, jump off between your legs for 'squeezy leg cuddle' before coming up the other side for a kiss. Last week you had to do a bed kiss and a floor kiss and ensure that the transition between the two corresponded to a careful set of rules which only Gertie herself was fully party to. It is, to steal a well-worn metaphor, a mine-field.
But it is always over by 7pm. Well, ok, 7.10pm. Maybe 7.15pm if we happen to really need to be organised because we are trying to go out.
I wonder if we might just have been ever-so slightly indulgent of the whims of our first-born?