Category Archives: Parenting

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child

This is a guest post by Suburban Dad.

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay

Oh, how we just want them to sleep! Parents will go to extraordinary lengths to calm a baby; some drive around the block until they are almost asleep at the wheel, others think a particular song has that magic calming effect (perhaps Sir Mixalot, for those of you who remember Friends). But the oldest soothing method of all is the gentle, repetitive rolling of the tongue and lips.  Lulla lulla lulla lulla by by by by by. Lullaby.

In the West we assume technology can solve all problems, including crying infants. We strap our children  into rocking machines, or play them special relaxation CDs that mysteriously cost twice the price of a normal one. But most of the women in the world do not have these plastic tools. They have arms, mouths and tongues. They lullaby. And when they are happy they trill their tongues in joy – alleluiaalleluialleluia. And when they are mourning they trill their tongues in grief – allaallaallaalla. This is called ululation, and it wells up from the same human emotional spring as lullabies.

And it is the same emotional spring. We pray that our babies will fall asleep, but, oh God, we pray more that they will wake again. What mother has not lain awake at night, rigid with fear, listening out for their baby’s breathing? And what parent does not wake in a cold sweat the first time their child sleeps through the night, convinced something terrible has happened?
For a small number of parents, something terrible has happened in the night. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome sounds scientific, but it is a temporary name, a placeholder while medical research uncovers the cause of babies dying in the night. Technology will not invent a perfect machine that gets kids to drift off, but there is a much better chance of technology, twinned with  medical research, solving the mystery of why some children never wake up.
The lines quoted above are from the Coventry Carol, which comes from a mediaeval Christmas play. The carol accompanies the act where the women of Bethlehem desperately try to get their children to shut up and sleep,  attempting to hide them from Herod’s soldiers carrying out their murderous orders. Our children are not, thank God, under that sort of threat, but every family has a slim chance of being affected by SIDS.
The charity that raises money to find a cause and a cure for SIDS has changed its name today – to the Lullaby Trust. If you support them you will be working towards a world where more mothers trill their tongues in joy instead of grief, and where women lullaby their babies to sleep without the fear that they might not wake up.

If you would like to find out more about The Lullaby Trust, please visit their website.

This post is for Jennie and in memory of Matilda Mae.  You can read Jennie’s lullaby post here, and also many more that have linked up to support the Lullaby Trust.

Doing nothing much

Today has been quite a hard day.  Tiddler is not well, I think he has slapped cheek, and he has been needing lots of cuddles.  This morning I had to take him and Rabbit to Granny’s house and then take the big boys to their piano lessons.  We usually have a bit of table time first, but today I got the feeling that I would have to start getting ready straight after breakfast, allowing two hours to get everyone dressed and out.  I was right!  The combination of daydreaming and distraction from the big three and a very long tantrum from Tiddler – I don’t want a jumper and socks, I don’t want to go out – meant that it really did take all morning to leave the house.  We walked to Granny’s house, which felt like a long way in the snow/sleet with Tiddler on my back, and then left the little two there and went on to the piano lesson.  Afterwards, we went back to Granny’s house for lunch and the children watched Peppa Pig.  Tiddler then reenacted his earlier tantrum for Granny to see – I don’t want to go, I want to stay here – for about half an hour, but eventually we got on our way.  At home, we had hot chocolate and a snack, and then the children watched CBeebies and played while I recovered a bit.  Some unauthorised painting occurred, resulting in rather a lot of mess, but it was quite peaceful.

Messy painting 1 Messy painting 2 Messy painting 3 Messy painting 4

Tiddler then spent another half hour, at least, trying to evade a nappy change, and when I finally succeeded I decided it might as well be bath time.  So I bathed the little two separately, trying not to rush and gave each one my attention.  We sang lots of songs, Tiddler played with bath toys, and Rabbit with a star-shaped bath melt which turned the water pink.  Daddy came home in time to help the big boys with their baths, and then we all had supper together.

I have been thinking through the day, and wondering if it was more or less productive than days in which I try to direct the children’s activities more.  I’m not really sure, but looking back I can see that a lot of thinking and learning went on without me having very much to do with it.  Owl read the Usborne version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I read some stories to Monkey, and later to Rabbit.  On the walk from piano lessons to Granny’s house, Owl said “What shall we chat about?  I know, lets do some mental Maths.”  He then asked me “What is £300.99 plus £120.99?” and then worked it out really quickly, and told me why it was easy to add on 99 to a number.  In the afternoon the children watched Nina and the Neurons, and Owl explained to me afterwards how robots work.  The two little ones did some lovely, if messy, painting, and we did lots of singing and talking together at bathtime.  Rabbit and I talked about baby Matilda Mae, and she asked about heaven and how you get there.  She said “I’m sad that she died because I wanted to play with her.”  We talked about how it’s okay to feel sad, and sometimes it helps to talk about it, and you can pray about it if you want to.  So we prayed for Matilda Mae’s family.

I’ve been reading Jennie’s tweets, as well as her blog, and what has really struck me is her grace and unselfishness, even at this time.

“If you have just half a thought of doing something with your little one, do it today!  All week I wanted to get in Matilda’s bath with her”

“Please pls hold your children and kiss them all you can. Tell them you love them many times a day. You will never get a single second back”

“Sing your baby a lullaby tonight. I can’t ever do that for M”

Even as she has been going through this devastating loss and pain, her thoughts have been with others as much as herself.  I know I am not the only one who has been moved, challenged and inspired by her words.  On Saturday morning, Rabbit asked if she could have a bath with me.  After a split second of thinking I would rather have a nice hot bath all to myself, I said yes, and it was lovely.  Every day since I read those tweets, I have done things differently.  Maybe only small things, but it adds up.  I have been more present, listened more, cuddled more, minded less about the mess.  It shouldn’t take something like this, but I am grateful to Jennie, more than I can say.

Bath melt handprint Bath melt star

So today, we did nothing much and it turned out to be quite lot, and certainly enough.  I think we might do nothing much again tomorrow.

This post is dedicated to Matilda Mae, to her selfless, loving mother, Jennie, and to all their family .

Past, Present, Future – from Jennie’s blog

Jennie Edspire – Jennie’s twitter account

Bliss – The Matilda Mae Precious Star Fund