Friday, January 14, 2011

Lesson 1: Brainwashed

It has taken me two children to realize that we, as moms, are adept in the art of brainwashing.  You can try to deny it, if you wish, but it’s true.
I came to this realization one afternoon, with a jolt and a feeling of contemplated guilt and shame that dissipated with ease.  (So I brainwash my kids.  There are worse things.)  In the moment that it rushed upon me, I was sitting on the edge of the couch listening to the distant, heart wrenching sobs of an overly-tired mini and willing her silently to surrender.  It was a steady mantra she couldn’t hear from her bedroom - “go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep...”
And suddenly I saw the striking resemblance between my pleading mantra and those loving lullabies I sing nightly to my kids.
I’ve always sung to them.  I started before bug was born - as soon as I learned he’d grown little ear buds and could recognize my voice from his warm, watery abode.  And I continue to sing to them to this day.  That’s what you do with babies.  It’s what my mom did for me.  I’ve somehow unintentionally persuaded mr to sing for our kids as well.
I sat, forcing the unholy wail of refused sleep to the background of my thoughts and reviewed our most sung lullabies.  As they replayed in my mind, I saw them for what they truly were.  Hypnotic begging and pleading attempts at brainwashing.
Perhaps when the lyrics were first put to Brahams’ Lullaby, the author thought it sounded more soothing to intone “Lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed” when in actuality he was thinking, “Lay thee down NOW and rest, you’re making me stressed (for crying out loud).”
Honestly?  These lullaby writers knew a thing or two.  Take “Golden Slumbers,” for instance:
“Golden slumbers kiss your eyes, 
Smiles await you when you rise. 
pretty baby, 
Do not cry, 
And I will sing a lullaby. 
Cares you know not, 
Therefore sleep, 
While over you a watch I'll keep. 
pretty darling, 
Do not cry, 
And I will sing a lullaby.”
(Emphasis added)  
I love the guilt trip laid on in the beginning of the second verse.  I mean, every mother learns early how to slather on the guilt.  Of course we must remind our babies that they really don’t have anything to cry about.  Is the wording coincidence?  I think not.
We might as well sing: “What are YOU cryin’ about??”
The scariest lullaby by far, the most threatening in my opinion, is "Hush Little Baby".  You may think it best to softly coo, “Hush little baby, don’t say a word...”  But we all know the correct version is: HUSH little baby, DON’T SAY A WORD... OR ELSE!”  It’s like the Mafia's lullaby.
My baby is thirteen months old.  She still does not sleep “All Through the Night.”  There are nights I get up with her four or five times, after she’s awakened the rest of the house with screams and it’s apparent she will not fall back to sleep on her own.  There are afternoon naps abandoned, dark bags under eyes, uncontrollable yawns, irritability due to lack of sleep, dozing at inappropriate times and just pure unadulterated disbelief.  

“18 more years of sleep like this?!?!?”
So, do I feel bad for brainwashing my child with lullabies, most likely meant to soothe me more than her?  No.  No, not really.  
I will still sing one of my favorites, sweetly and gently right into her little ear, “Sleep my child and peace attend thee, all through the night.”  And as I sing I will still be thinking, “Did you hear that??  Did you?!?  All through the night I sang - ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT!!!  For the love of everything HOLY, SLEEP ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT!!!”


Lisa said...

Oh, this is just funny. When I have kids one day, I'm sure I'll know exactly what you mean.

Unknown said...

my husband Lo and i have, on numerous occasions, locked horns over the best way to get our little one to bed at night.

Lo feels that it's unfair to leave him alone in his bed. The boy is afraid of the dark. Lo doesn't believe any of those parenting mags /psychologists / other parents when they say that letting your child cry is the best and normal way to toughen them up and get them sleeping by themselves. he backs up his point by saying that in the animal world, the family sleeps huddled together for warmth, protection, and the feeling of safety. he wonders what kind of message we are sending our child when we walk away from him, leaving him alone, wide-eyed in his bed to defend himself against the monsters and darkness underneath it. Lo thinks that a bond of trust is lost between a parent and child when the parent indicates that "it's okay to leave you alone, terrified, crying and unprotected."

i don't know Kimberly. it's a really tough one. especially when you haven't had a good night's sleep in years. I feel like I haven't slept properly since the boy was born. that was 6 years ago. I just WANT TO SLEEP!!! Or, I just want some time for MYSELF!!!

but sometimes my heart softens when i think of Lo's argument. and I have to get right back up on the fence.

wow LONG comment... it's 3:45 am and i can't sleep... funny...

thanks for the thought-provoking post. most enjoyable as always! :) also thanks for letting me go ON and ON... :)

Beben Koben said...

so fancy blog, nice to meet you Kimberly\m/

Aimee said...

New follower from Sassy sites Hop- Great blog! Come visit when you have a moment ;-) Happy hopping!

Mom said...

... And this from the child who didn't sleep through the night until she was 4.


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