Monday, October 13, 2008

Rock Me, Mama!

Though I have never mentioned this before, it may interest you to know that, at 59 years of age, I am caring for a child in my home. Last year I began watching a baby while his mom was at work (it has been a necessity for her to work at this time). Riley was just under one year old when God blessed me with him. He is now just under two years of age.

He comes to my home at 5:30 in the morning, five days a week and stays till about 3:15 in the afternoon. Riley is a very happy and well behaved little boy and loves to come to stay with "Granny" and "Poppy". Though he is not a grandchild, he thinks he is and we love him like he is.

I said that to say the following. Yesterday I came across a post on another website that I thought was interesting. It was about the pros and cons of allowing children to sleep with their parents in the parent's bed.

This idea of mom and dad and baby being in the same bed leaves me with a question: "Whatever happened to the age-old, tried and true rocking chair? Do mothers of young children ever use the rocking chair any more? I now hear and read so much about this practice of having the baby in bed with the parents. I just don't get it for several reasons which I will express in the following questions:

1. How do mom and dad get adequate sleep with baby in the same bed?

2. Isn't there concern that the baby could be smothered by mom or dad if they actually do sleep soundly?

3. Whatever happened to the truth that the bed is a marriage bed, not a family bed (even as far as an infant sleeping in their bed for 3 months goes)?

4. And lastly, with baby in bed with mom and dad, will this not put dad at a disadvantage since he has to go to work and earn a living? Will not his performance levels at work be affected by interrupted or inadequate sleep?

Now may I offer an alternative that may be superior to the family bed option?

From the time my children were infants till they were toddlers I rocked them. My parents rocked me to sleep. Rocking my children provided a structured time for me to cuddle with them and to sing and read to them (in other words, to teach them). This also gave me much-needed down-time to relax, though it still served as quality time with my children.

Enter Riley on the scene - I now rock him. At first, he didn't like it. But I did not give up. It wasn't long before he began to love our 15-20 minutes together before his nap. I sing simple children's songs to him and he has actually learned to carry a tune and sing the words. His favorite song is Old McDonald Had a Farm which he sings as "Ol McGonnel" (so cute!!!).

We also discuss all the topics relevant and important to a toddler, such as the sounds that animals make and where his and my eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth, tongue, etc. are. Of course, I also read to him - small-sized board books. And he loves to have his "blankey" during this time. (It is the only time he has it other than to sleep with.) When Riley finally falls asleep I put him in his bed. If he wakes up when I lay him down, he knows he must stay put and go back to sleep. His nap lasts about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Now lest you think that this trains a child to depend upon the rocking chair to fall asleep, you need to know that when this little guy comes in the morning (at 5:30), I put him to bed without rocking him. He does not fuss at all. In fact, he smiles sweetly, kisses me and says, "Night, night, Granny." That's it! He goes right down and sleeps till at least 7 and sometimes till 7:30, which gives me time with the Lord before making breakfast. Riley has learned to adjust to my agenda and time schedule.

Rocking my children, grandchildren (and now Riley) has proven to be only beneficial. All of my little ones loved their rocking time and consistently went to bed willingly for their naps. I never had to wean them off or break them from the habit of the rocking chair. They eventually just outgrew the chair and my lap - literally. They got too big to rock. As it was uncomfortable at that point, they no longer desired to be on Mommy's lap and the feeling was mutual.

Another benefit was that when the children were too big to rock anymore, rocking time just naturally graduated into a reading time with them. Since the time was already set aside, I just moved the children into their beds and sat at the bedside and read (at night and nap time also). Thus they learned to love books and reading.

Rocking time was also advantageous in that my husband and I slept soundly at night. However, I always woke when any of my infants were hungry. I got out of bed and rocked them during their feedings. Then I was able to return to bed where I knew I could stretch out however I wanted. My husband did not have to worry about rolling over on the baby nor was he disturbed and kept awake when it was time to feed and change her. This was obviously helpful for him (we are to be helping our husbands in ways like this, are we not?) since he had to get up and go to work in the morning.

It seems to me that the rocking chair is a win-win way of nurturing babies and young children, but it seems to be a lost grace. I would be interested to know if anyone out there still rocks their children. Reiterating, I hear and read much about the bed thing, but never anything about the good old fashioned rocking chair. What a shame for this is how I remember it:

The Rock of Love

My mama rocked me in her chair.
My papa also tried,
Though on his shoulder still I laid,
My eyes were opened wide.

What tender words I heard from them,
And songs so dear and sweet.
They nestled me and whispered love,
Then rocked me fast asleep.

With fond affection I recall
The stories that they shared.
But precious more, their kind caress
In that old rocking chair.

It made for such sweet sleep and dreams,
For Christ's love was displayed.
"Now let the little children come."
It seems I heard Him say.

This habit carried on until
My feet - they reached the floor.
Though too big now for mama's lap,
She loved me like before.

I too have rocked my precious ones,
And tender words I spoke.
Yes, that old rocker, though it creaks
Still nurtures little folks.
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  1. My mother also rocked all of her children Sharon. We had many special times in my grandfather's old rocking chair which sat cozily by the fire in my parent's living room, being rocked by my mom. She has many memories of the silly or cute things we said in that rocking chair and documented them in our baby books. On occasion we'd even sit in my dad's lap there, after he'd finished smoking his pipe outside. I can still smell his flannel shirt, mmmm. I look forward to such happy times with my own children (minus me smoking a pipe) :) Unfortunately, most all rocking chairs I see now adays are in babies' rooms and kept only for piling laundry on. Thanks for bringing back such great memories Sharon, and happy plans for the future!

  2. Anne,

    What a great idea for mama to record "rocking chair memories" in the baby's book. I love that. I think I'd like to put your comment into a regular post!

    Thanks for the great feedback!