My little man had a rough night. He woke up around 11 p.m. and came looking for me, tearful and bleary-eyed. I tucked him back into bed and closed the window on the yowling cat that had disturbed his sleep.
Now. More often than not, when a child wakes up during the night, I snuggle him or her back into bed with a kiss and an “I love you” and return to doing my thing (which is usually folding clothes and watching “Friends” re-runs), secure in the knowledge that the child is just fine. Because frankly I’ve already given about all I have to give during the day.
But the sight of his sweaty little brow moved me to settle on the bed beside him and start singing. As miserable as he was, a little smile formed at the corner of his mouth when I launched into “Mairzy Doats.” This has always been his favorite. I learned it from my Grandpa Tony, who sang it to me when I was small in his wonderfully rich baritone, and I love that my children love it, too.
I moved on to “Hushaby Mountain” from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And then “The Gartan Mother’s Lullaby.” Do you know this song? Meryl Streep recorded it on the “For Our Children” album to raise money for pediatric AIDS research years ago. I heard it long before I had children, in fact, but tucked it away for some day.
I was on a roll, so I broke into “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins. Will opened one eye in disbelief and said, “What’s that supposed to mean?” I decided to explain irony another night.
At this point I realized I was really just keeping him awake, so I finished up with the “I L.O.V.E. Y.O.U. Lullaby” from A Child’s Gift of Lullabyes. One of my oldest and dearests, Patti, gave this CD to us when Andrew was born. It is a treasure.
I will not tell you to make every moment as a parent count. I would love to give a stern lecture to whoever came up with the phrase “teachable moment.” I will not be like the famous pediatrician’s wife who wrote, in an attachment-parenting sort of book I once read, that “a need that’s not met will never go away.” She later mentioned, almost in passing, her nervous breakdown. No wonder, poor thing. Imagine trying to meet every single need of seven children because you’re afraid they’ll be scarred for life if you don’t.
So. If your child wakes up during the night and you’ve given all you can for the day, tuck her back into bed, smooth her hair, kiss her on the cheek, tell her she’ll be just fine, and go in peace. But if you have it in you, scoop her up, sing a song or two, breathe in the smell of her hair, and imprint the moment on your heart. “This is all I need. I will remember this forever.”
“You must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip by. Yes, but some of them are golden only because we let them slip.” Sir James M. Barrie
How about you? Do you have favorite lullabyes you sing to your children? Do you remember the ones from your childhood?