I bring Molly up to my shoulder and start patting her back to bring the wind up. I can hear Marek upstairs, beginning to lose his temper, but still managing to keep control. After a few more minutes, with calm suggestions from her daddy and 'no!' coming consistently from our little girl, I hear Marek close the bedroom door and Elsie start wailing.
He comes down the stairs and gives me a weary look. I pass him the baby, give him a kiss on the cheek and take my turn.
'What's all this?' I say quietly as I push open the door. Elsie is on her bed, on top of the covers, tears streaming down her face. She wipes her face as I come near and I sit down, bringing her onto my lap for a cuddle. She snuggles down and sucks harder on her thumb. 'Elsie, love' I start. 'It's bedtime. Daddy read you some books and now it's time to sleep.' She doesn't say anything. 'Would it help if I read you one last book?' I suggest. 'One book, then you go to sleep.' She nods solemnly and scrambles off my lap to fetch a book.
The book is one about a pregnant Mummy. She points at the bump on the sketched figure and says 'Molly' I agree, saying Molly was in my tummy, but now she's out and at home with us. She labels various toys, and we look at the different colours in the clothes the people are wearing. When a Polish word comes out, I agree, repeating the Polish version and adding the English form. Elsie repeats after me. One page is filled with food. 'Eggs!' Elsie picks out, 'Essie no eggs' she says, and I confirm that she is allergic to eggs at the moment but that one day maybe she won't be.
I turn the final page and Elsie says 'more!' as I expected. 'No my love. I said one book and that was the one. No more tonight; it's time for bed.' She moves to the foot end of her bed and stares at me defiantly. 'You want your pillow at that end?' I ask, and move as if to pick up her pillow. 'No!' she says, sensitive to her order being disrupted, and moves towards her pillow. I tuck her in, and her legs kick at the covers. 'Are you too hot?' I ask innocently. 'Would you like to sleep without the covers?' She wordlessly allows me to cover her again. I turn out her light and kiss her head. She sucks her thumb and clutches her pink bunny. My poor little girl, whose life has had to make way for this disruptive new little being. It's hardly surprising she's grabbing extra attention where she can.
I stroke her hair and leave the room. All is quiet. For now it's worked but Molly is barely six weeks old so I expect Elsie to keep pushing the boundaries, and she does. The sleep deprivation makes it harder to deal with patiently, but we'll get there. Parenting is just a case of navigating from one seemingly impossible phase to the next. We see that now.