My middle son, fifteen-year-old Joe, has fallen ill with the dreaded flu complete with body aches and chills, fever and sore throat. So I've been doting on him more than usual in an effort to nurse him back to health. He asked me for a prayer to bring about immediate health once again, and I suggested to him that although it was good to pray for a restoration to wellness, that doesn't mean that God will quickly bring it about. I offered that maybe it was God's will for him to be sick at this time because he might have been needing extra attention from his mother. At any rate, caring for him brought back this cherished memory, so I offer this repost from two years ago in honor of my beautiful but ailing son...
Well I love my baby sweet and fair
you've got the sky in your eye, the sun in your hair
I rock you to sleep most every night
and sing you this song while I hold you tight
Sleep my baby, the angels keep you from harm
and your Father above
cradles you in his love
safe and warm
Sleep my baby,
nestled in your mama's arms
sleep my baby,
the angels keep you from harm
My baby you'll be sleepin' soon
kissed by the golden stars and moon
I have just one wish for you
may your every dream come true
I don't have any little babies in my household anymore. My last baby is now 8 years old. I am so grateful to be done with the diapers, and the colic, the temper tantrums and the potty training. I do miss the breastfeeding, baby curled up close, skin touching skin, mouth clicking rhythmically as a little drop of milk slips out of the corner of the rosebud mouth while eyes roll dramatically to the back of the head as sleep comes on (often for both baby and me!) That really was my favorite part of mothering so far. I also miss the bedtime stories and the lullabies.
For many years, I had the habit of kneeling beside my children's beds at night and saying the traditional bedtime prayers with my five little ones. But lately, I started to think that maybe they were getting too old to be praying "Now I lay me down to sleep" and "Angel of God" every night. I was thinking that maybe it was time for them to develop their own ways of praying to God with their own words. So, we started an examination of conscience at bedtime and spent a few minutes in silent prayer to thank God for the day and to tell Him that we were sorry for our sins. Before I knew it, I let them take that silent time with God by themselves, and our family bedtime ritual fell by the wayside, as so many honored rituals often do.
Then, a few nights ago, eight year old Mary, who still loves to snuggle in the evening, asked me if I would sing her a lullaby. How could I resist? I sat at the edge of her bed, tucked her up to her sweet chin in her downy quilt, and stroked her face with my finger, just as I did when she was a baby, and I quietly sang her favorite lullaby, soft and low. Soon, her eyelids fluttered one last time, her breathing slowed and sleep overcame her. I left her with a sign of the cross on her forehead and a tender kiss on her cheek.
I began to tiptoe back downstairs, but thirteen-year-old Joe and ten-year-old Jack, listening from their bedroom, stopped me. "Mom, we want a lullaby, too," they told me. "Are you sure?" I asked in disbelief. They nodded emphatically. So, I tucked them both tightly into their beds like I hadn't done in years, and began the song again. I brushed the golden, shaggy hair from their foreheads, and ran my finger across their cheeks and chins. I could see the glimmer of faint smiles come across their faces even though the room was dark. Soon, they also drifted into a pleasant sleep. I made the sign of the cross on their foreheads, kissed their sweet cheeks, no longer chubby, but now becoming somewhat chiseled with the strength of adolescence, and sighed my own breath of contentment as I left them in their slumber.
It felt so good to return to those pleasant days that I had thought were long over for me. This morning Joe asked me if I would do it all over again tonight. I told him I wouldn't miss it for the world! I guess you never outgrow those tender moments of love with your children, hearts gently beating with the warm glow of family love, peace overcoming everyone. A lullaby really is a prayer, isn't it? It's like the words of the great St. Augustine when he said that singing is praying twice. My lullaby was both a prayer of longing for a future with God and a prayer of gratitude in remembrance of the love of days gone by. I can't wait until tonight so I can sing a bedtime prayer to my children once again.