Before I turn off the light in Annie’s room each evening there’s one last thing I do. It’s something I originally did one night around four a.m. to soothe Annie back to sleep after she woke up, crying, but somewhere along the line it became the piece de resistance of our bedtime routine.

“Dada pets?” Annie asks once Heather tucks her into bed. “Can I get Dada pets?”

I nod, then lean over Annie’s bed and gently rub her head.

“Everyone loves Annie,” I tell her.

“Mommy loves Annie,

Daddy loves Annie,

Grandma Linda and Bampa Kirk love Annie,

Grampa Tony and Grandma Kathy love Annie,

Uncle Kyle and Uncle Sebastian love Annie,

Auntie Monica, Uncle Sheridan, Spencer, Danny and Michaela love Annie,

Tia Leah and Tio Ted love Annie,

Auntie Lynn loves Annie,

Everybody loves Annie.”

Recently the list of those who love Annie has grown. It now includes all of her little friends (who, of course, love her), and her furry pal, Rigby (who also loves her).

“Does the Grinch love me, too?” Annie asked a week or so ago.

“Ugh, I guess,” I said, briefly taken aback. “Do you want the Grinch to love you?”

Annie nodded.

“Then The Grinch loves Annie.”

“And his dog?”

“Yes, the Grinch and his dog love Annie.”

“And the little girl, too?”

“Yep. The little girl, Cindy Lou, loves Annie too.”

Night time routines can sometimes feel just that, routine. Sometimes, as parents, it’s hard to feel 100% engaged as we supervise teeth brushing, read a story, or sing a lullaby.  Some nights we’re just going through the motions.

But tonight was not one of those nights. Tonight, as I gave Annie her “dada pets,” I was reminded of just how beautiful it was to have my little girl safe in her bed, and for her to know how loved she is.

“Everybody loves Annie,” I told her one last time when I got to the end of my list. She rolled onto her side, smiled peacefully, and fell asleep.