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Lady Lullaby Blog

Lullabies for babies, grown-ups and everyone in between!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

To What Miserable Wretches Have I Been Born?

We all talk about what babies need and like, as if we know what they’re thinking and feeling. How in the world do we know what they’re thinking?

There are different ways of gaining knowledge about parenting. We get advice from friends and relatives who've done it. We read books by experts who have talked to lots of others who've done it and condensed that information for us. And maybe the most important way of knowing what our baby wants-- intuition, and  trial and error.

When it comes to lullabies all these things come into play: we learned songs  when we were little that seem natural to sing to our babies, and we sing the standards like “Twinkle Twinkle.” We buy music by “experts”---singers of children’s music and, in my case, music that’s also for parents who are trying to put their babies to sleep.

And intuition comes in when we instinctively pick up a crying baby and start  crooning some comforting sounds. The trial and error comes in if she settles down right away, or if we change out technique to bouncing or pacing or swearing—depending on the time of night and our fatigue level.

But the fact is that we don’t really know what babies are thinking.

However, there is one woman who claims to know, and she is happy to enlighten us. Comedienne Suzanne Weber has written a very funny book of poetry from the baby’s point of view. Her babies let us know, in no uncertain terms, what they’re thinking about a variety of important subjects.

Here is one such discussion about the practice of swaddling, which the current experts feel makes a baby feel secure and safe. When my children were babies we did not swaddle. It seemed cruel and constricting -and having grown up in the sixties we did not believe in constricting anything at any time. Now it’s back in fashion, and this grandmother has struggled to learn the artful technique of wrapping and twirling and generally taking a baby prisoner. I have to say I felt vindicated when I read this poem:

Where Are My Hands??!!??
I had hands.
I know I did.
I was born with them.
They were there this morning.
What have you done with them?!!??
For that matter, where are my arms?
Last thing I remember,
you lay me on a blanket
and just kept
and twisting
and tucking
and tightening
and then
I had no hands.
Or arms.
Come to think of it, can’t really see my legs or feet either.
And what exactly do you expect me to do in this position?
It’s not really conducive to anything except lying here.
What if I just fall asleep like this?
You’d like that, wouldn't you?
Have this little limbless body fall asleep
so you wouldn't have to think
about my needs and attending to them.
You might as well have gotten yourself a houseplant.
Or a throw pillow.
Or a pet rock.
Whatever. Fine.
I’ll sleep.
But only because
trying to do anything else

And despite their impatience with our general incompetence, they still love us and know that we love them. Swaddled or not, I wish you both a good night and sweet dreams.

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