The baby joined us for her fist day of Sunday nursery school. She is barely a toddling eighteen months. She did well for twenty or thirty minutes. Then she realized mom and dad were not there with us.
She was so distraught. She cried continuously. It was not the blood curdling kind of cry. It was softer. She wound up and then wound down like a small foldable Avon alarm clock my Grandparents once had in their camp trailer. It was built to survive every drop and over winding. I loved the feel of the blue leatherine lock case. I loved listening to the soft purring tick, tick, tick. I loved setting the ringing bell to alarm, turning and rushing the tight wind key faster and faster. Hastening an end to the noise. This was the child’s crying, soft to louder alarming, then back to soft whimper.
I held her. I rocked her. I walked with her. I swayed. I did not give her back to mom, who was down the hall with the singing children sharing that time. I was a bit uncomfortable in this at first, as it has been years since I experienced a crying baby without an escape route. My mother-in-law had always been the balm and band aid who offered homemade bread, butter, and milk. It had been ages since I had mothered tiny ones…my own children.
Truth is, I wanted this unpleasantry to go away. I passed her to the other nursery teacher for a moment while I told a story. Distraction and redirection seemed to work. The child calmed herself in toys and exploration, but not for long. Soon, it was back to reaching for the door handle and crying, “Dah, Dah.”
I picked her up and held her in my fully recommited arms. Then things began to change as I changed my thinking…..as I shifted to empathy and away from self. I quit resisting the sobbing. I opened to it. Things got better. Yes, she cycled between sobbing to more and more silent, until she no longer cried at all. I could almost breath again.
I wrapped her in the softest, warm flannel doll quilt, as I realized this play form was not play. We watched other tiny ones playing dollies with craddles, and blankets, and tiny rectangle pillows. We listened to their small mother talk. One or two asked about the baby I was holding. I smiled. She was a real baby doll. I felt good holding her.
A Soul Integrity teacher told me once in discussing breath and meditation, about rubbing the ear and earlobe, and that there are sensory receptors there. She said that when a person is stressed, if the ear is rubbed, the brain releases good hormones toward calming. And so I rubbed the tiny ballerina’s ear lobe. The whole time I was hoping and praying this would help to console her. I wished that in time this little one wearing a pink tu tu would pink up to smiles rather than tears.
Then my sixteen- year-old daughter popped in to say “Hi,” and to give me a random hug. Yes. I was a bit surprised. This is not common coming from Middle. I mostly get lip and disapproval..ha ha…The baby saw my girl, heard our conversation, shared in a three way group hug. She watched the door open and close to my daughter’s leaving, and then she began to cry again like the city’s twelve- o’clock whistle signaling lunch time and a needed trip to the Mercantile.
This was okay. Devon felt badly that she had contributed to the pain. It was fine though. After about an hour of pacing, swaying, rubbing the small one’s back, tracing her tiny seashell ear…..whispering…..shushing……she settled down.
I held her in our own singular space and silence……surrounded by playful, frolicking, singing, bouncing toddlers…..but in our own place. The baby was okay with me. Safe. This felt good to give another comfort and eventual peace.
I stood for a long time, just swaying. With patience, we were able to sit without her alarming upon touch down to the chair. I positioned so she could watch and learn from the behaviors and routine of the other children. I avoided permitting a visual of the door and peeky window that parents sometimes look through.
Good plan. Never speaking. Just letting her be held. Part of me in motion and heart beat and breathing. This sort of felt like the relaxation I go to in my head… the way I imagine when I swim. Calming.
She watched the kids sing with the ukelele girl who comes in for ten minutes each Sunday…songs like Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam…Once There was a Snow (girl), I am a child of God. This last one is so powerful coming from expressive two year olds. They make me want to believe more fully. She watched this entertainment as if in a testimony meeting.
She also watched as crayons and coloring pages appeared on the Mighty Lite table. Before long, she was leaning, teetering from my lap to color the upside down/ right side up smiley frowny face coloring sheet. In time, she even sat on her own tiny chair, swaddled in the cozy blanket, eating fishy crackers and fruit loops. Dumping Dixie cups.
This gradual release was good. By the end of our time, the child was catching and stomping soap bubbles with the other children. And when mom came to retrieve her, the small one did not want to leave. I felt we had weathered this one together.
Incredible transformation. Huge. Earier, when the other teacher asked if I had a lesson prepared, I could only say…..”No. I am holding a child today. I think this baby is teaching us today.” She didn’t know what to think of me. I think I failed her test. She dismissed herself and went for copies down the hall.
The chosen lesson was on “Being Happy.” ha ha…..This is funny I think. My team teacher was willing the child happiness, while at the same time yielding to me the job of rescuer. I realize that I could have responded in a number of ways. I could have delivered the child to her mother or father. I could have taken a position of envy. I could have made a point to pass off the child to Tyra. I could have taken the easier road and chosen to play, play, play, or chosen to laugh, laugh, laugh, as I often do to problem solve. The path of laugh toward more positive, toward ignoring the problem. To distract toward something else. Toward more comfortable, and easier. This is what my partner did. I did not. I took the crying child in my arms. Then, in time, in wear and tear, not knowing what the outcome would be, I witnessed a small miracle. Miracles are the fruit of faith.
Fear. Separation. Insecurity. These are demons we face from infancy throughout our lives. From the first recognition of separation anxiety from our mother, to the loss of a life long companion. We meet it in maturation, in divorce, in sickness, in death of a spouse, and in nearly every nuance in between.
We are faced with the fear of being alone, without the one we perceive to love most, whether it is mother, or mate, or best friend, or pet. This is not an easy lesson. It is a lesson in release, in conquering self, in trusting others, in allowing someone, even a stranger to help. With the lesson, sometimes comes the wisdom of letting Jesus heal us through the power of Grace and Love.
We must embrace the separation. We must allow the healing, if it is to occur. Yes! We feel sorrow in separation. We feel lonely. But we are never alone in God and Christ. We forget this truth. I learned a big lesson from a very small one today. I learn so much from children every day, and especially on Sunday. Sunday is the one day that is different from all the rest.