Overhearing the whispered words, I crossed the threshold into the large room, six-month-old Susie* already asleep in my arms. I motioned with a tip of my head towards the bedrooms, and the little girls followed me.
“Deni and Jamie, this is your room,” I said from the middle of the small bedroom. The silent children cross the threshold, coming to stand in front of me.
“In the top drawer of this dresser, there are clothes that should fit you, Deni. The second drawer has clothing for Jamie.” Shifting Susie to the opposite hip, I pulled out the first drawer and took out a pair of summer pajamas. “Try these on, Deni. I think they should fit you.”
Opening the second drawer, I lifted up clothing until I found the pajamas for Jamie. “Here’s yours, Jamie. Do you need help to try them on?”
“Her can do it. I help her,” said Deni, one hand already pulling on her pj bottoms and the other reaching for Jamie’s sleepwear.
“Okay, thanks, Deni. Girls, you take off the tee shirt and shorts you’re wearing now and put them right here,” I said and patted the top of the dresser. “You only wear the pajamas to bed; don’t put them over your daytime clothes, okay?”
“But we just put these on,” said Deni. “They not dirty.” Both freshly-shampooed heads looked down at their clothing.
“Hmm? You’ve got a point there, Deni,” I said. “Well, these are daytime clothes you’re wearing and the ones I just gave you are for nighttime.”
Frankly, watching the two tugging the clean tee shirt off, I understood their confusion. I’d just asked the children to take off a pair of shorts and tee shirt, in favor of putting on—you guessed it—a pair of shorts and a tee shirt. The lighter weight of the fabric and the design of sleeping teddy bears didn’t register as different to them.
I moved over to the baby changing table next to the door. Remembering Carroll’s admonition, I kept one hand on the reclining Susie while I reached around under the table for a footed sleeper.
Once they’d finished, Susie’s sisters came to watch her being dressed in the baby sleepwear. I felt my face flush with a warm embarrassed glow as I struggled to get her legs into the bottom half. “Deni, can you look in that second compartment for another pajama for Susie? This one seems like it’s too small for her.”
Unfortunately, the other lightweight one had the same number on the size label. I couldn’t put Susie in the thick winter sleeper in July.
“Let’s try to use this one. It has a lot of stretch to it; it might work for one night,” I said to the watching girls.
Susie sleeps on the bottom bed, and me and Jamie sleeps on the top bed?” I turned to see Deni looking up at the top bunk.
“Actually, Deni, you and Jamie each have your own bed. Susie has her bed in my room.” I said, nearly bowled over by the two as they ran passed me. I followed her older sisters, planning to lay Susie down in the crib.
“See Jamie? A real baby bed hers got.”
Back in their room, I demonstrated how Deni could climb the ladder at the foot of the bed. I’d bought the bunks for two older boys and now wondered if a four-year-old would be safe on the top bunk. Observing Deni scamper up that ladder, an enormous smile gracing the freckled face, I knew it was already too late to take back my offer.
“Okay, girls, get under the covers and we can say our bedtime prayers. We’ll thank God for helping us today and pray for God to watch over all of us as we sleep.”
Following the goodnight hugs and kisses, I switched off the light and left the room.
Hearing Susie stir as I pulled out my nightgown, I picked her up. I’d give Susie a bottle and rock myself into calm. Holding the bottle in place with my chin, I pulled at the legs of the sleeper. I knew the nighttime cold made it necessary for her to wear something, but the stretchy fabric pulled at Susie’s legs. It made her tiny toes curl. Would it hurt the baby to sleep one night in a sleeper too small for her?
Early the following morning, I had the shocking answer to the question that’d rob me of much of the night’s sleep. I faced another problem I should have expected but never anticipated.