A couple of months ago my 2-year-old asked me to buy her a baby.
We were sitting in our PJs building a Lego bathtub, our nightly routine before making Lego beds, tucking in Lego people, singing them lullabies.
She'd taken to parenting her toys lately, pretending to feed them dinner, change their diapers. She'd line up her dolls and soft toys on their bellies, carefully cover them in blankets.
"You have to be quiet, Mommy," she'd say in the kitchen, in the living room, in the hallway. "They're going night night."
"Tegan, do you want to be a big sister?" I asked. She stopped building and clasped her Legos, looked at me with full moon eyes.
"Yeah," she said. "I want a baby sister." She let the words hang in the air, waited for me to catch them.
We'd talked about babies before. That they grow in mommies' bellies, that they're born when they're ready to join everyone. One time she tried to open my belly button, crawl back inside.
"Well," I said, "maybe a baby will grow in my belly."
She nodded, considering this, then clicked a Lego zookeeper into it's bed.
I expected her to ask about this again, but I didn't think it'd be her first question the next morning. Or for the next week. Or for the next month.
She would look at other babies longingly, ask me to follow people's strollers and shopping carts. She'd shout "IT'S A BABY!" whenever we'd see one. It was as though she'd glimpsed a fairy or a unicorn. When she finally did get close to one, she touched his feet gently, asked me if she could pet him.
Then she began telling strangers that I was pregnant.
"I'm going to be a big sister!" she'd say. "There's a baby in my mommy's belly." People would look at me expectantly, joy rising. Then I'd awkwardly explain.
She's wants to be a big sister. No, I'm not pregnant.
We're not quite ready for a baby -- from my belly or not, for a number of reasons. But I feel for my girl -- I want her to be a big sister, too. I want her to have that bond, to grow up side by side with someone, to share secrets and laughter, be a family.
She's been telling me that a baby will be in my belly soon. That "they'll be one next time."
And there may be -- but if there isn't, it will be okay. We will be okay. And we'll do everything we can to make sure she is okay.
So, if you're a parent and we see you, it may be the case that my daughter will want to pet your baby. I hope you understand.