Privilege Blog

Getting To Work, Or, Saturday Morning At 7:22am

Yesterday I was looking at the photos from my brother’s wedding. Made me want to go to the party all over again. I clicked through the online set, choosing just a few for now, of me and my children. Who can resist great pictures of their kids?

The one of my daughter that I liked most showed her standing, holding a swaddled, sleeping baby. She’s smiling at the camera, wearing a tight-fitting flowered dress. In the best picture of my son he stands at the side of a cream-colored wall, looking off, slightly bearded, dark eyebrows. Pictures are particularly good at reminding you of what your kids look like now and replacing the image kept alive in your mind’s eye. Even if they fail to explain quite when the change happened.

I have been thinking about that swaddled baby. I had put him to sleep because his mother was one of the bridesmaids, time to dress and fluff. It was easy, putting the baby to sleep. I just walked outside the dressing room, bouncing, and humming. You know exactly what I mean.

I didn’t know that baby at all. Had no idea what he liked or didn’t like. In this case, there was little of the usual watching and responding. But I had many hours of baby bouncing under my belt, so I just did what I knew, consistently, making a few adjustments here and there as I figured out how that particular baby preferred to be held. I felt no anxiety, just full body happiness. I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing and, unlike when my children were little, would not despair if I failed.

Bouncing soothes babies because it mimics our harvesting and planting movements. It’s as close as most of us can get to providing an infant with the experience of sharing a working mother’s life, before civilization reared its abundant and demanding head.

I imagine there’s a parallel in relating to our adult children. Sometimes you’ve got to respond inventively. Pay attention, full focus, all systems on high. Some other times you have to do what you have to do. Tend to your own particular fields. Or Candide’s garden, for that matter. Take the kids along, making an adjustment here and there.

It helps to choose a song you like to hum.

In my experience, this, appropriately called “Tell Me Ma,” works a charm. My favorite is Van Morrison’s version. Music is so personal, you’ve probably got a bouncing tune of your own.

26 Responses

  1. I’d had absolutely NO baby experience prior to having my son. Zip, nada. (Well, OK, I’d held a friend’s baby for maybe five minutes, once.) It really stunned me how *instinctive* this stuff is, the bouncing, the humming.

  2. How I miss those days, and envy you the baby bouncing! My personal bounce/walk/rock song was Silent Night. Wishful thinking with a restless babe at any time of the year, with the added bonus of not having to think too hard to remember the lyrics.

  3. Yes, I know exactly what you mean. My new grandbaby loves bouncing from her daddy best of all. They just “fit” so well. With me, I’m more of a walker, sway-er. She likes that pretty well, too ;-). My husband used to “dance” our son to sleep every night. Song of choice: Stardust. Aaaah. Great memories. Thank you. xoxo

  4. ‘Summertime’ is what my mama sang to me and it’s what I sang and hummed to my little darlin’s. In case you didn’t guess, my childhood was spent in the South.
    Mom only sang the song when we were tiny – never heard her sing it again after that. But, when my first babe was born it was what I hummed trying to soothe him. Pure instint.

  5. Of all the things I can do, being able to comfort a baby is perhaps the one I’m most content with, even proud of despite it being so instinctive. Do other experienced moms, their own kids well launched, twitch like I do when a nearby baby is crying and crying? — I have to stop myself from offering to walk and bounce and sing that baby to sleep. (I’m talking strangers’ babies, in public places)

    There’s something in your post about the distance the photos afford you, for seeing your babies as adult, and the memories of comforting them, now transferred to babies of today and perhaps of the future . . . And not to rush anybody, as your kids are still quite young, but you are soooo going to be a happy grandma!

  6. What a very sweet post. Weddings and babies, and “grown up” babies….

  7. Love this thought- thank you for sharing. Bouncing a baby is perhaps the sweetest thing in the world. Glad to hear that tenderness lasts a lifetime.

  8. Lisa – Great post…love it !! The song I use to sing or humm when rocking my babies back to sleep or just playing around was ….”My boyfriend’s back and you’re gonna be trouble…” I think its an oldie from the 60’s, nonetheless it was a favorite. I also sang sweet lullabies such as the song from Dumbo or “hush little baby don’t you cry Daddy’s gonna buy you a ….”

  9. Lisa I know exactly what you mean…I have this hip rocking motion that kicks in the minute I pick up a baby…I instinctively sway.

    Holding a baby is one of life’s greatest gifts.

    You’ll make a wonderful grandmother !

  10. Finding beautiful pictures of one’s children is a wonderful surprise! One of my favorite pictures in the world of my daughter was taken at my brother’s wedding. The posed ones were horrible, but the candid ones beautiful. Oh, and thank you for reminding me about Candide, speaking of candid. It brought me back a million years ago to high school French class.

  11. I have no children of my own, but now I understand what my mother was speaking of re. pictures of one’s children some years ago. Have a sweet Sunday;-)

  12. Hello Lisa:
    At last, through the labyrinth that is the Blogosphere, we have found you and how pleased we are to have arrived.

    As we have no children, handling a baby seems like a terrifying prospect. Whereas, aged 11 upwards, especially errant teenagers and we are well into our stride… all from our experiences in schools. As you say, just like riding a bicycle, some things one never forgets.

    Thank you so much for becoming a Follower and we are pleased to return the compliment.

  13. Isn’t that them most delicious thing, feeling them breathe with their entire little torsos, that weight against you? We are noticing we stop and peer into buggies now. Not yet grandparents, we jump at the chance to hold a baby. One of life’s sweetest moments.

  14. No babies of my own, but boy have I rocked and bounced a lot of them, to soothing effect — I am apparently something of a “baby whisperer.”

    My favorite tune is “You Are My Sunshine,” which MamaRubi and GrammyRubi both used to sing to me. It works a treat!

  15. As the “subversive auntie” (everybody needs one), I also like Rosalie Sorrels’ infamous “Hostile Baby Rocking Song.”

  16. I absolutely love this post. I am writing this next to my swaddled baby who is alseep in her crib. I am in the rocking chair in her beautiful and peaceful nursery. My favorite room in this house. I treasure every second of rocking and swayinga and cuddling with this baby. I just love her little eyes looking up at me.. I talk to her all the time. You are right the instinct is just there.. I love finally being a part of the Mommy club.. It truly is the best. xo great post xo

  17. It is so true that this “baby-handling” does come second nature to so many of us by mid-life. Ah, if dealing with adult children could only be so simple!

  18. Pseu – My theory is that since it’s universally comforting to humans, when we hear our babies cry and we are uncomfortable, we try to comfort ourselves and thereby comfort them.

    Madeline – Silent Night. That’s perfect. Don’t you wish there were babies one could borrow, regularly?

    Preppy 101 – My pleasure. Stardust. That’s so romantic. Ah.

    Aleatha – Also the Chieftains. And lullabyes are so often sad and yearning. As though we know even as we sing this time is short.

    belle de ville – Ha! I have no doubt at all.

  19. Miranda – That story gives me the chills. The good chills, the kind we all look for.

    Mater – Yes! Yes I do. I always want to get up and volunteer to walk the babies. In airplanes too. Except I am sure the poor parents would be terrified.

    Preppy Pink Crocodile – Thank you so much.

    Princess Freckles – I know. It’s enough to make me get far too sappy:).

    Kacey – You are right. Exactly right. It is that the tenderness lasts a lifetime.

  20. Lori – Thank you. I can imagine singing that song, it’s got the right lilt and repetition. And yes, the mockingbird song, me too.

    Hostess – Thank you. You lucky grandmother you!

    kate ericsson – Our job here is to remind us all of school:). Usually my dad does it so I’m just treading in his footsteps. Family weddings are a great time to get pictures of family. I wish now I had one of just me and my children – I should have asked the bride if we could arrange that…

    Englishvers – Thank you. And I am really moved by the idea I may help people to understand their own mothers.

    Jane and Lance – Hello! Welcome! And I can imagine you two are wonderful for the mothers of teenagers. They must smile widely when they see you coming.

  21. Duchesse – Ah, a bit of the mama peeking out:).

    Rubi – My mother also sang You Are My Sunshine. There is, agree, nothing quite so wonderful as a subversive auntie. I’m known, believe it or not, as the wacky aunt. And was never in the slightest bit wacky around my own children.

    Landlocked – Aw. Welcome to the world of mommies. Enjoy this time, even though it’s so much work:).

    Terri – I was thinking that maybe if we could parent the adult children similarly, sometimes just get about our business, and stay constant.

  22. Isn’t it funny how we all go back to that instinctive response. I was visiting my sister when a friend of hers who was a new mother came to visit. She was still so nervous, and the baby was picking up on that. I was the only one who could soothe the little sweetie. And yes, it was the song that my mother sang to me that calmed him right down …

  23. My own children didn’t like to be bounced but did being rocked and walked in the snuggly (is that still around?). As for singing, I sang 12 lullabies to my kids every night at bed time and also at other times, whenever a peaceful transition was needed. Babies and children often have trouble with transitions.

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