I hear chatting on the baby monitor. I dry my hands on the tea towel and begin the climb up the stairs. I step lightly on each tread, but still it creaks and moans beneath me and I know the boys will hear my approach. They’ve not long been in bed, so I know they won’t be asleep.
Halfway up I realise it is Boy 3 – now 16 months – chatting away, reciting the day’s words over and over, his mind like a treasure box he simply does not want to close.
“Da-DAA. Da-DAA”. He turns each word over and over, admiring its curves, its sharp edges, each syllable a bead in a string. Soon he will have enough syllables to string a whole sentence, and within a year a full treasure chest of words and phrases.
As I approach the first floor landing I hear another voice from the next room. Boy 1 is offering new words for his baby brother to repeat. From their beds, beneath their doonas covered in cars and farm animals, through the lath plaster walls and closed doors, they reach out to each other.
I tiptoe to my office to try to get it all down. By the time I reach this sentence, they are both fast asleep and my dishwater has turned cool.
Have your children done this too: the bedtime talk-fest? All of my boys – in times of rapid language development – have habitually spent the good part of an hour, after being tucked into bed, just repeating the same words over and over, before slipping into sleep.