This morning I rocked Gabriel prior to his first nap of the day. As we sat in the low light of the morning and swayed back and forth, we each sighed and let our bodies soften into one another. He slowly relaxed his grip on his board book and let his body go to a place of comfort. That can be a hard thing for a 17 month old toddler to do. I leaned back into the rocking chair and let my mind wonder.
In my fourteen years of mothering, I have spent countless hours holding and rocking my children. Some have been hours of tears and worry. Many of have been hours of fatigue and half-sleep. Some painful, others restful. A blessed many have been full of contentment. The brand of contentment that comes from doing what is meaningful, even when it is not easy. So many hours that I wouldn't trade for anything.
These moments with each of my five children have left their mark on my memory. Tanner loved a simple Winnie-the-Pooh book and would chortle out loud when I buzzed a make-believe bee to life, straight from Pooh's honey pot, and tried to sting him each night. Then we settled down with a few familiar lullabies and finally a prayer. Thus a routine of comfort and love was born.
Its a simple routine. A pattern that has shifted with each of my children's differing needs, but that has remained the same in it essence. We read. We sing. We pray.
Andrew could have been rocked all night and been happy. I read less to him and sang and hummed much more. His chubby fingers twirled my long hair as we both drifted off to light sleep. I would rouse with a tangled braid of hair and gently unknot his fingers from the plait. Then I tip-toed to his crib with the prayer that this might be the night when he would finally sleep.
My sweet singular girl was a joy to rock. Margaret was content with her story, her silky blanket and her song each time. We would read in the pink glow that only a long-awaited-daughter's nursery has. She cuddled her silky and learned to lull herself to sleep by running her hands along its ruffled edges. Her song was always Teach Me to Walk in the Light.
Nathan was our baby. He seemed to belong to the whole family. He was born a decade after our first and we were certain he would be our last. So everybody read to him, held him, prayed for him. We gathered our whole family into his nursery and talked about our day in hushed tones as he settled down each evening. We all watched as the energy of the day drifted away. Then all would pray together those sweet prayers of childhood and quietly leave as he calmed, and then swayed in the rocker and then went to sleep.
And then sweet Gabriel surprised us all. Amongst the rushing to and from basketball, ballet and violin lessons he decided to join our family. Gabe has reminded me to slow down. We still read (Goodnight Moon) and sing (Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing) and pray, but this pattern that was once a routine I clung to for sanity has transformed into a tranquil escape. It is precious to me as only a fleeting thing can be.
I see the end of my hours in the rocking chair coming. This summer will be the end of morning naps. Then in a matter of months, my last baby won't need to be rocked before he drifts off. So while it lasts, I am going to love these moments. I am going to choose to be present as his breaths slow and his weight settles in my arms and his eye lashes close against his round cheeks.
And of course, I am going to pray. Pray for me. That I will not ever forget these sweet hours I have have consecrated to my children.