Monday, May 24, 2010

Swaddling Clothes

Our son Samuel is now 8 and a half months old. He is an amazing little boy -- he smiles a lot, he loves to be with family, he is crawling around like crazy, and standing up any chance he gets. His third tooth just broke through his gums yesterday, and surprisingly, he really hasn't made a big deal about teething (which mom and dad are very grateful for!). He is healthy, except for a tiny hole in his belly button that we are keeping and eye on, and struggles with eczema, but beyond that he seems to be a bright and wonderful little boy.

So with all of those wonderful things, the one big challenge we inherited with him is nap time. When he gets tired during the day, he starts getting more and more grumpy, until he eventually just cries, no matter what we do. But if we lay him in his crib, he starts screaming and crying, and won't stop. We don't have the inclination (or lack the courage) to leave him in his crib crying for hours on end until he finally falls asleep, so we have had to learn other methods to get him to finally settle down for a nap.

When Jenna was pregnant, we started reading up on how to raise infants, and watched videos on how to properly swaddle a baby. I had never heard of swaddling before, other than references to Jesus, i.e. "He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger" ... I figured that just meant wrapping him up in a baby blanket or something.

But now that I have had to sooth a screaming baby for 8 months, I understand the importance of swaddling clothes so much more! You have to get that blanket wrapped around them really tightly, or they don't feel safe and secure. The magic of a good swaddle was one of the first things we learned after Samuel was born. If you got those blankets just right, he went right to sleep.

Of course, as he got older, his arms got stronger and he would bust out of the swaddle in the middle of a nap and wake himself up. So we came up with better and better ways to wrap him ... until finally he was so strong a swaddle really didn't do much any more.

But today I noticed something, as I was trying to get him to sleep for his morning nap. He was crying, and as I walked to his bedroom and got close to his crib, as usual he started squirming and screaming even more. He is very aware of nap time, and doesn't want any part
of it!

So I sat down and held him, and started singing to him, and he started to calm down a bit. But he was still kicking his legs strongly, and any moment I stopped singing he would start crying again. Thinking back to those early swaddling days, I decided to hold him more tightly, pulling his legs up close to me and not giving him room to kick ... and suddenly I was holding a peaceful child!

As his breathing started to slow down, and his eyes closed, and he snuggled closer to me, I glowed like only a dad can glow when his son sleeps close to him. I started thinking about swaddling ... about how a firm boundary brings him more peace than holding him loosely ... and realized that perhaps this is something that stays with us for the rest of our life.

My mother, with all of her child rearing wisdom, has repeatedly told my sister and I over the years that a child feels more secure and loved by their parents when their parents establish firm boundaries for them, and actually keeps those boundaries. As opposed to many of the parents we see in the world who say "come back here right now, or I'll [fill-in-blank-here]!" to their child, but then never follow through on whatever it was they promised to do.
So as I sat there, holding Samuel, I thought perhaps there is a connection. We grow out of our need for physical swaddling (most of us anyway) -- but I think we always have a need for emotional and moral swaddling. For guidance and boundaries, and the continuing desire to push against those boundaries.

As adults, we live in a strange world of freedom ... we have the laws of the land that provide us some sense of boundaries, but we continually push agains them and stretch them, just like we did against the swaddling blanket of our infancy. We have God's laws to provide us a path to walk upon -- wisdom that helps us stay out of pain, and stay away from causing other people pain. Yet we push against these, and stretch these as well.

I eventually laid Samuel in his crib, after he slept on me for a while. He is still napping peacefully as I type.

Psalm 1:2 says "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." I had never seen this Psalm quite in this light before. The act of meditating on God's law is what helps us see the boundaries God has for us ... He swaddles us, lovingly, and in doing so, gives us peace. Kind of an odd thought for a Monday morning, but one I thought I would share.

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