This is a short piece by Robert Schumann. It's lovely. You should listen to it. It's called "Child Falling Asleep." If you're like me, then you will wonder as you listen to it why it's so fitful . . . a little bitter, even, at moments. I played this when I was in college, before I'd learned to rock a child to sleep. Now I know why it sounds this way.
How many of you have helped a small child go to sleep for the night or even for a nap?
I knew before having my son that many children struggled to fall asleep during their early years. I knew I'd probably need to rock him. I knew I'd need to hold him close and sing to him.
But I wasn't prepared for the reality of the sleep struggle.
Parents everywhere know about the sleep struggle.
Right this second - right now as I type this - (ok, now 20 minutes ago while I was typing this . . . because I had to stop typing to aid in the nap time battle that ensued) - my child is (was) struggling against his father's gentle shushing because for the last several days napping has been public enemy #1.
Some of you parents are familiar with "developmental leaps" - these are days and weeks when the baby is learning a new set of skills. Whenever the baby learns a new set of skills, all of the old skills get put on hold and things like sleep regression take place.
Anybody can show you a picture from the moment after the battle and claim that life is always like this for their child or their family. But you can't see anything outside this perfect square frame - the furniture pushed aside for toys that the baby still has no interest in - the dishes piled up - the pajamas everyone is still wearing at 3:00 in the afternoon . . . .
And you can't see the picture we would've taken 5 minutes prior - the screaming child flailing tiny arms and legs, afraid he'll miss something if he closes his eyes.
One of our close friends wrote a lullaby for the baby.
It's a sweet piano piece that wanders through several key areas - just a bit mysterious. The composer wasn't sure it was quite fit for a baby, but as my son is now in his bouncy chair having woken up from a 5 minute nap for the 6th time in an hour, I think it's actually a perfect fit.
This whole parenting thing is a bit mysterious. We find ourselves to be wanderers, unable to solve problems the way we've always done.
I have been unable to write a lullaby for my own child. Actually, I haven't written very much since his birth.
I've been too busy learning.
The things that frustrate me about my child are things I still do as an adult.
How many times have I resisted something I need? Especially from God?
How many times have I refused to receive something that would have been good for me?
How many times have I been so busy learning a new lesson that I've forgotten all of the old lessons?
Right this second the baby is staring at his own hands, babbling to himself. He's in the middle of a leap called "smooth transitions" and he's trying to figure out how to reach for things smoothly. He's also figuring out how things move around him in the space he inhabits. He hardly ever babbles right now because he's so busy watching everything. He fights sleep. His eating habits are different. He's clingy and needy and fussy.
But in a few days he will have mastered the new skill and all the others will come rushing back so that he can put them all together at once . . . and this little miracle of learning this particular lesson will never happen again. It will be over.
Our lives are not so different from the lives of our children - even our small children.
I will never hear or play "Child Falling Asleep" the way I did as a student. It will always mean something different to me because of what I see (and will see) in my child.
Pay attention, friends. Everything moves quickly and we only see it once.