Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Are you breathing yet?


The other day the unthinkable happened--we got to church and realized we had forgotten our two-year-old's blanket, her lovey, the tool we used to keep her pacified whenever she gets fussy. Ever since we'd started bringing her to weekly mass we had depended on blanket to distract her from her desire to scream, or shout, or incessantly walk around. How was I going to get through the hour without it?

In the end, we did fine. There was a moment where I thought she'd scream the walls down but it lasted only a few seconds (which, in mortified-mom time is like three hours, but, still). I managed to distract her with books, giggles, jiggles and oh, the songs were a lifeline. Every time the cantor sang, Christa paid rapt attention and tried to sing along.
On my way out of church that day, having weathered the mass-without-blanket experience, I felt this surge of energy. It wasn't triumphant or exultant; it was momentarily indescribable. And then I realized where the energy was coming from. I was BREATHING.

In much the same way as you don't know what you have until it's gone, I didn't realize that, over the past two years, I had been regaining something I'd lost with the birth of each of my children--my regular breathing. Babies, after all, truly leave us breathless. Mostly with joy. Often with laughter. But just as often with discomfort, embarassment and fear.

In the beginning parents hold their breath as they put their sleeping baby in the bassinet, wondering if this will be the night they will get more than two consecutive hours of sleep. Then, even after the baby sleeps six hours a night (even if it is in fits and starts) they get their first illness, and parents hold our breath as we wonder how long we should just monitor their fever before we call the pediatrician (FYI--with baby #1, 2 hours. With baby #2, 2 days).

After we've weathered sleeplessness and a few illnesses, we hold our breath as we bring them into a new social situation: That child took the ball. Is my child going to retaliate? Oh, no, that child just hit my child, should I intervene? My child just ran full-steam into that barely-walking baby--what should I do? The discomfort, the outright fear, made me hold my breath til the play mats swam in swirls of reds, blues and yellow.
Breathe, breathe, breathe. For the first two to three years I would often need to remind myself to take in some air. To stop holding my breath. And do you know what I turned to, almost automatically? Music.

In one of Mrs. Aimee's classes I've heard the song, "Sing Your Way Through the Week." With my first child, singing through my day was one of the only things that kept me sane. And now I realize it's because it regulated my breath. To sing, we need to breathe. And trust me, in those early days, weeks, months, I sang everything. "Good morning! Good morning! It's time to start the day!" "Hello, baby! Hello, baby! Hello baby, it's time to eat your food!" "This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands, this is the way we wash our hands to get the syrup off." "Toys away, toys away, time to put our toys away, thank you very much." My husband often commented that I had a song for everything. And you know what, I did. I had to. It's the only way I remembered to breathe.
My childrens' entire lives have a soundtrack. Most of them are Kindermusik songs that either stand as written or that have been modified to encourage eating, cleaning up, using the potty, brushing teeth, sharing, loving, being nice to sister, and going to bed. They are wonderful ways to communicate with my children, but they are also amazing at bringing my life the order and calmness that breathing brings. So, anytime you're feeling stressed nowadays, my advice is to add a song. It will work wonders for everyone involved.

2 comments:

Aimee Carter said...

I'm so glad to know that I am not the only one who "sings my way through the week"! I thought I was just unusual. :-) It has helped us to de-stress so many times though.

Debbie Mondale said...

I, too, have found myself breathless at many of life's moments, esp. after having children. At one of those moments, a new song erupted from my being. Here is just the chorus.

"Well, I'm breathin', I'm breathing easy for the moment. I'm taking life one day at a time. I don't know what tomorrow may bring us, but I'm breathin', and we'll be just fine."

Singing does help to regulate breathing, and to take deeper breaths. Thanks for your parent's perspective. It is well written and meets a mom where she lives.