Lika a slow hiss, I lower myself onto the sofa. Bedtime with three is a good hour of talking things out, fluffing their imaginations, soothing their giddy little minds and lulling them off to sleep. I do more in that hour before they fall asleep than I do during any other hour of the day — except when they come home from school and talk at me simultaneously while handing me used lunchboxes and shoving notes and paintings at my face. A chaos that I know I will eventually miss.
I sip my tea and try to cloud my brain with puffs of TV nonsense to let it slow down, decompress and switch-off for a bit. After a while, I'm drawn towards them again. I slip into their twilight bedrooms and see the familiar outlines of the children I created, snuggled in or tangled over their covers, depending on the child. I test their smooth foreheads — one, two three — a hangover from when they were smaller and more delicate. I note they are breathing — another unconscious ritual, and whisper something to each of them. It is mummy-talk, a vague, loving murmur of something that comes from deep within and I realise I have a collection of whispers that they've been raised on. Loving words subliminally soaked into their growing minds. These words I've whispered to them since they were nestled safely within my body; I love you, you are my whole world, I'll always be here for you.
On those long sleepless nights when it was just us against the world I'd hold each of you tight and marvel at those velvety feet, those tiny curled up fingers and whisper, 'you are amazing. I'm so in love with you'.
Later, as I kissed sore knees and put 'freezin' peas' as my youngest calls them, on bumped heads, I'd croon softly into their wet teary face, 'you're ok now, mummy's here. Don't worry, you will be ok'.
Now, often my whispers are a disciplinary method, be good for your grandmother, I urge in their ear as I kissed them goodbye for a night out. 'Go and say sorry', I hiss at the playground, when they've shoved or pushed. I realise that these are the words that will form their own inner voice as they grow up and out into that world. I believe those whispers will comfort them, direct them and advise them when I am far away or out of reach.
I imagine the things I will whisper to them during the next phases of our journey together. 'You are beautiful' I'll whisper to my daughter as she struggles with skin problems. 'He's not worth it' I'll coach when their heart gets broken. 'Perfect,' I'll reassure my son, as he brings home his beloved.
A whisper is intimate, it is precious and it is usually important. I'll continue to whisper those things I say to my little ones and watch in awe as they repeat them to their dolls, their friends and eventually themselves.