Blessed Are They Who Weep and Mourn—Midnight Mommy Vigil Part II

Part I: Brother Ass and the Midnight Mommy Vigil

Last night started off so promising; but I was skeptical right from the start that it would really be as easy as all that. Anthony was falling asleep at dinner so I went to put him down while everyone else finished up with dinner and the other kids started to get their pajamas on etc. We got Ben, Sophie, and Bella to bed early too. Sophie has started picking up Ben’s habitual protest: “I don’t want to go to bed!” But she still fell asleep before I’d finished tucking in Ben and Bella. Ben did his standard scampering for a snack when I’d turned out the night light. We indulge this habit because I’d prefer to give him a snack then rather than feed him in the early morning hours, as has sometimes happened when Mr Picky didn’t eat a good dinner. But after his snack he just asked me to carry him to bed. I tucked his blankets around him and gave him a kiss and then left. He didn’t protest or make me sit there in the dark until he fell asleep. So since it was early I felt confident in watching an episode of Castle with Dom. Then I went to take my shower, it was still before 10 and I was hoping to get to bed early and maybe get ahead of the sleep game for once. Fat chance.

As I got out of the shower I heard Ben whimpering. I went in and found his blankets thrown off so I tucked them back in and he settled right down. I kissed him and walked out. No problem. So I said good night to Dom and my sister and my sister’s friend Debbie who is visiting. Then I crawled into my bed at about 10:30. Just as I was about to plug in my cell phone I heard Ben crying again. Drat! This time he didn’t settle back down. He wouldn’t let me put his blankets on him. He screamed more loudly when I offered him water, a tissue, to move him to the couch. Finally, I changed his diaper, which was rather wet, doing it quickly by feel in the dark. I’m an old pro at changing diapers in the dark. Then I sat down in the chair to wait until he’d cried himself out.

Finally he sobbed my name and so I went to him. His pajama pants were soaked! I know they hadn’t been when I’d changed his diaper. I reached down and sure enough I hadn’t fasted the diaper well and there was a gap at his crotch and he’d leaked all over. So I changed his pajamas and pulled off his soaked bedding. Then I asked if he wanted to get back in his bed or go sleep in the living room. Neither, it turned out. He wanted to go cuddle with me in the rocking chair in the living room. And he didn’t want any of his blankets. Just a quilt from the stash we use to cozy with as we sit.

So I sat with my sleepy little boy in my lap. He snugged right in with his head on my chest and his little hand in mine. It was cozy and sweet and if I had to be awake I’d much rather be cuddling Ben than anxious and frustrated listening to him scream while I couldn’t do anything to make it better. Eventually his head dropped and he snored a bit. I sat for a while longer to make sure he really was in deep sleep then I tucked him in on the chair and brought his blankets from his room. Usually when I leave him in the living room he’ll stay there all night without a wake up. And indeed that was what happened.

At 11:30 I stealthed back into my bed—so, so quiet so as not to wake up Anthony, who snuffled and turned but didn’t wake. I slept soundly and blissfully until 2:30 when our door opened and Sophie walked in, clutching her blanket and sniffling. She didn’t want to go back to her bed so I gathered her other blankets from her room and settled her on the couch in the living room. What has become the usual midnight shuffle. Then back to my bed. But this time I couldn’t get back to sleep.

I lay half awake for about half an hour, listening to Anthony stirring restlessly. Finally around 3 he sat up and started wailing. I changed his wet diaper, being sure to check that it was well fitted around the legs. Then I dosed him with ibuprofen, which I’d already measured out in a syringe and left on my bedside table. This cold has hit Anthony the hardest. Everyone else is well but his nose is still dripping and he seems fairly miserable whenever the ibuprofen dose runs out. You can measure it like clockwork. He had been fairly well night weaned before this round of illness; but I don’t have the heart to say no to a sick baby who fell asleep rather than eating his dinner, so I gave in to his demands for milk and lay down to endure until he was done nursing.

When he was a baby I could often sleep while he nursed. Not anymore. This big toddler boy has roaming hands and kicking legs. He is a restless nurser and I am a light sleeper. An unhappy combination. He nursed forever. At 3 or so he was done on one side and wanted more so I switched him over. After another half hour I decided that he was done. I gently pulled him off and then rolled away from him to try to sleep. He didn’t fuss but neither was he asleep. I heard him muttering quietly to himself at my back. Dom was snoring and my internal thermostat was doing it’s usual early morning crazy act so that I felt like I was roasting. I couldn’t fall asleep though I was desperately tired. I lay in bed sobbing, trying to be quiet but evidently Anthony had kicked Dom awake and he heard me crying and asked what was wrong. I explained that I’d only had two hours of sleep and I had been awake for an hour and a half, maybe two hours, and was so, so, so tired. Dom was sympathetic but went back to sleep. I crawled out of bed and went to the bathroom, hoping Anthony would fall asleep, hoping the cold tile floor on my bare feet and some cold water splashed on my face would make me feel less overheated. I sat in the bathroom and sobbed for a long time, trying to pray and offer up my misery but mostly complaining to God and begging for some rest.

The cry must have done me some good because when I went back to bed, I just shoved Anthony over and went to sleep. I woke again to Anthony hitting me in the face and pulling my hair. The clock said 5:30 and he wanted more milk. I refused. Firmly. No! you already had your milk. It’s the middle of the night and you need to go to sleep. He whimpered a bit but then lay down and tossed and turned for a bit but finally went back to sleep. At a quarter to seven he started to do the face slapping and hair pulling routine again and I realized I needed to get up and face the day. I said morning prayer in bed while Sophie and Ben and Bella all came in to say hi. Ben spent a few minutes showering Anthony with kisses. Then when Ben left Anthony crawled off the bed and toddled after him.

My sister had agreed to watch the kids so I could go to Mass today. I’ve been going on Tuesdays; but Ben had a dentist appointment on Tuesday morning so I rescheduled. As I approached the door of the church I saw a group of people dressed very nicely in black and gray entering. Oh dear, is it a funeral? It was. There was the pall folded up on a table at the back. There was the Easter Candle, front and center. It seemed a bit weird; but I decided to stay. I don’t know the deceased but we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. When praying the Liturgy of the Hours I have learned to pray with the whole body of the Church, to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. And somehow it seemed that maybe this was the Mass I was supposed to go to. Perhaps there was a purpose to my presence here this morning. So I would attend the funeral of this unknown brother in Christ, though in the course of the funeral I came to know a little about him. His name was Frank and he was a husband and father with two grown children. His parents were there as were his brothers and sister and his wife. He died from cancer.

But before I knew that I stood in my pew in the back of the church and watched them carry his coffin in and cover it with the white pall. Suddenly my midnight tears seemed so trivial. Somewhere last night a mother wept and could not sleep because her child was dead. Somewhere sleep eluded a wife because her husband was gone. My tears were tears of self pity. Though now I cried again, this time they were tears for others.

As I was brushing my teeth this morning I was thinking about my midnight tears and a phrase came to me: tears are a grace. This idea returned again during Mass: Blessed are those who weep and mourn. I felt a bit silly this morning as I sat through the funeral of a man I never knew and cried and cried and cried. But I also felt that they were somehow holy tears, a grace, a gift. Finally I was able to thank God for my tears and then to thank him for my midnight vigils. I was able to thank him for this unexpected and unasked for Lenten fast from sleep. It wasn’t the Lent I chose but it is the Lent that has been given to me. If I haven’t always been able to accept it without grumbling and complaining, still I can see how it has drawn me closer and closer to Christ as I become more and more aware of how much I need Him. How much I long for his grace and his love. How much I long for the rest which only he can give.

I wasn’t able to go to my grandmother’s funeral this fall. Somehow being at this stranger’s funeral brought me closer to hers. And somehow it made me think of future funerals. As Father talked about the significance of the white garment that Frank was clothed with at baptism and which he is clothed with today for the final time, I suddenly saw my own children’s baptisms. One day they too will die and be clothed one final time with the white garment. Once Frank, too, was a tiny infant in his mother’s arms.

The gospel was Matthew 11: 25-30:

Jesus said, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Here we are again at “my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Suddenly the words seemed true and my burdens didn’t seem quite so heavy. Suddenly I felt perhaps I could be childlike and trust in my Father in heaven to give me the rest that I need.

After the funeral Mass was over I had decided to linger. It would take a while for everyone in the funeral procession to leave the parking lot anyway. I had forgotten that on Thursday mornings they have adoration after daily Mass. The twenty or so regular daily Mass goers were scattered around the church. Some of them moved forward now. Before I really realized what was happening the deacon had placed the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. They sang a hymn but I didn’t have the song sheet. So I just knelt and listened. I lingered for a long time, just resting. Oh what a gift, that rest! Then I left to go to the grocery store.

I am still tired. Still snapping at the kids. Mass and prayer and Adoration don’t take all that away. (And despite going to the grocery store, I still don’t know what I’m going to make for dinner and it’s already half past four!) I’m still far from sainthood. I’m still not supermom. Go figure. Still, Mass and prayer and Adoration do seem to give it all a focus, if only I can remember it. There is a bigger picture than my tired, tired self can quite glimpse right now. And there is a final rest that is my goal if only I can finish this race.

8 Responses to Blessed Are They Who Weep and Mourn—Midnight Mommy Vigil Part II

  1. Heather April 1, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    Melanie, I’ve been wondering about this, and now that you’ve brought it up, I have to ask. How do you teach a 2 year old boy to stay in your own yard?!? My son is only 25 months, so maybe that is part of it, but I would love to be able to trust him to stay in our yard while watching neighbors mow the grass, etc. We have no fences in the front or back, and most of our neighbors don’t either, so he is in the habit of running all over the place. And cars often drive way too fast down our residential street!

    I would love to let him be outside more, but I can’t be out there all day long, and it feels like it will be years before he can be out there safely by himself.

  2. Melanie Bettinelli April 1, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Heather,

    I wish I could offer good advice but I really think it’s mostly his temperament. Ben isn’t a very wild boy and he doesn’t run crazy anywhere. He has a strong sense of order—he’s the one who often puts his plate in the sink when he’s done and who remembers to throw the top of his yogurt cup into the trash can and he loves to sit quietly for hours and put all his cars in neat rows. 

    I did used to spend time with them all in the front yard. I’d pull weeds or trim the bushes or pick flowers and the kids would run around on the grass while I kept an eye on them. I don’t feel like I really did much except to sternly warn him not to go into the street whenever he got near the sidewalk or the end of the drive.

    I think also his big sisters helped to model expected behavior. Bella always was afraid of loud noises as a young child and she used to go on walks in the cemetery with my dad and he trained her to move to the side whenever a car was coming. She didn’t need much encouragement to get out of the way of the big scary car. She kind of taught that behavior to Sophie and then to Ben. When they were playing in the yard and a car approached the kids would all yell, “Scary car! Scary car!” and run up toward the house, giving the sidewalk a very wide berth. Making it into a game probably helped a bit.

    Also, we are not on a busy residential street. Our street is a circle and so the only traffic we have is either residents or their visitors. Would I have let them play in the yard while I did yard work if we didn’t live on such a quiet street? I don’t know. I know when Bella was Ben’s age I would never have let her out in the back yard unsupervised if we hadn’t had a fenced in back yard. Neither she nor Sophie were allowed unsupervised in the front until this past year. I’m not sure I’d have let Ben do so except his sisters had earned the privilege first and there didn’t seem to be any strong reason to think he would be unsafe as he’s never once run into the street.

    And I’ll have to see if Anthony is the kind of child who will get front yard privileges so early—I rather doubt it. He seems more of a mischief maker and I suspect he’s more apt to run into traffic than to run away from the scary cars.

  3. Diane Hoffacker April 1, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    Please remember that he is two and cannot reason as an adult. Because he has never gone in the street in the past doesn’t mean he’ll stay in your front yard.
    Also, there is a lot of evil in the world:
    http://sorb.chs.state.ma.us/HTMLTownOutput.ASP?NTown=HOLBROOK
    I think maybe you are lucky that neighbors only knocked on your door and didn’t call child protective services.
    Tell me to mind my own business if you like, but I just had to speak my mind. Please keep your baby safe.

  4. Melanie Bettinelli April 3, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Diane,

    I’m very well aware that he’s two and that he doesn’t reason like an adult. My goodness, just trying to figure out what he wants for lunch can be maddening. However, I do know him very well. He’s the kind of two year-old who when his father is going for a walk the first thing he says is something about being sure to walk on the sidewalk and not in the street because there are cars on the street. He’s aware of danger, adverse to risk, hates talking to strangers, and very concerned with conserving boundaries.

    I could see him running into the street after a ball or perhaps if he was really mad at me and we were in the midst of a battle of wills. Maybe. But if he’s outside to watch workmen he is likely to run back in if they even try to talk to him.

    I’m not letting him out without considering what could happen. I’ve thought about the risks and decided that I’m willing to live with them because they are minor. He’s much more likely to come to harm in a car accident with me driving than to be hit while playing in our yard.

    This is exactly the point the Free Range Kids book makes—most people are really, really bad at assessing risks. The media has skewed our perception of the danger that our kids are in. I agree, I’m much more afraid of a nosy busybody calling CPS than of any other danger to my kids.

    As for dangers of child abduction—another topic Free Range Kids addresses—the risks are vanishingly small. The number of kids in America abducted and killed by strangers has held steady over the years at about 1 in 1.5 million. The chances of any one kid being kidnapped and killed by a stranger are almost infinitesimally small: .00007 percent. If you actually wanted your kid to be kidnapped and held overnight by a stranger, you’d have to keep her outside about seven hundred and fifty years for it to be statistically likely to happen.

    The sex offender data doesn’t specify what kind of offense the person in question committed. How many of them were offenses against another adult such as date rape? How many of them were against a child? Even if they are all child predators, child abuse is much, much, much more likely to happen with someone a child knows than a complete stranger. Pedophiles typically like to cultivate a relationship with their victims. And that kind of abuse is much scarier because it is much harder to protect against. My kids have virtually no contact with adults unless I or my husband or my sister or another family member is present. So unless there is a pedophile in my immediate family, I think for now we’re pretty safe. Of course that has happened to people I know. There is nothing more devastating than to find out your child has been abused by someone you trusted. That is truly the most frightening kind of evil and, honestly, a much more realistic fear. But that is a far cry from the imagined scenario that keeps parents from letting their kids play in the yard.

    I know there is evil in the world but I also know how to assess risks and refuse to give in to fits of the vapors over miniscule risks. I refuse to keep my kids wrapped in cotton wool. I know I can’t keep them 100% safe. I can take a clear-eyed look at what the real risks are and make my own decisions based on my extensive knowledge of my own children rather than living in fear of things that are highly unlikely.

  5. kristina April 5, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    Make that “I agree with Diane.”  smile

  6. Melanie Bettinelli April 5, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    Interesting that you bring up DeBecker’s books. I hadn’t heard of him and so looked up The Gift of Fear on Amazon. It does look interesting—I may have to pick it up some time; but just from reading the reviews and descriptions, it seems to me that the book is not at all in opposition to the ideas in Free Range Kids. Both authors emphasize risk assessment based on actual facts and not fears inspired by tv news.

    In fact the Amazon page had a Q&A with the author that looked like it could have come right out of Free Range Kids:

    <bq>Question: In today’s world, where terror and tragedy seem omnipresent, the fear of violence never seems more heightened. Is the world a more violent place than it ever has been?

    Gavin de Becker : Your question contains much of the answer: today’s world, “where terror and tragedy seem omnipresent…” The key word is “seem.” When TV news coverage presents so much on these topics, it elevates the perception of terrorism and tragedy way beyond the reality. In every major city, TV news creates forty hours of original production every day, most of it composed and presented to get our attention with fear. Hence an incident on an airplane in which a man fails to do any damage is treated as if the make-shift bomb actually exploded. It didn’t. Imagine having a near miss in your car, avoiding what would have been a serious collision—and then talking about every hour for months after the fact. Welcome to TV news.

    To the second part of your question, No, the world is not a more violent place than it has ever been, however we live as if it were. The U.S. is the most powerful nation in world history—and also the most afraid. </bq>

    De Becker’s thesis seems to be the same as Leonore Skenazy’s: people are afraid when they should not be because they are unable to assess risks. He seems to be saying stop watching the news and trust your intuition. Pay attention to warning signs.

    The Amazon blurb on The Gift of Fear says: “He also deconstructs the wisdom of traditional maxims such as “Never talk to strangers”” In Free Range Kids Skenazy also questions that piece of traditional wisdom, saying children who fear talking to strangers are at higher risk than children who have been taught not to go with strangers. Both books emphasize that children need to be taught that it is ok to yell, make a scene, to resist someone they feel funny about.

  7. kristina April 5, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    Hi Melanie,

    I agree with Betty and disagree with your characterization of the workmen as hyper vigilant.

    Helicopter parenting is not the answer, yet if “Free Range Kids” is “all basic common sense”, then something is lacking in simple risk assessment. 

    I would recommend Gavin DeBecker’s books “The Gift of Fear” and “Protecting the Gift”.

    Remember, this is a public forum.  This post alone has inherent risks since most people’s basic information is readily available on the internet.

    God bless you all!

    ~kristina

  8. kristina April 7, 2012 at 2:41 am #

    Hi again Melanie,

    I haven’t read “Free Range Kids”, but DeBecker’s premise is quite different.  He believes we are remarkably good at assessing risk, but we are dumbed down. (my words!) Ironically, this seems to be fully compatible with God’s plan for parents.  For the most part, we should have God-given common sense, but you know the old Mark Twain quotation. smile

    I’m a local and this caught my eye today.  http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/30853070/detail.html

    I could not think of a time and asked about my great grandmother’s to my current family when very young kids were hanging out on their own and we’re a very independent group.  smile 

    Holy Saturday blessings!

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