Transitions are difficult for both the parents and the babies. I noticed this today especially, after coming home from a joyous Easter celebration at my in-law's. The girls were showing off their newly-found skill-- babbling-- to all who were interested in listening. It's amazing how the simple repetition of dadada in various high-pitched tones and squeals can captivate a whole room full of adults. For several afternoon hours, the girls were passed from adoring arms and held up to bright and cheerful faces: constant stimulation in both sight and sound. At one point, as a sort of second Easter miracle, the girls actually fell asleep for a nap at the same time. (Not for long, of course; THAT would've been truly miraculous.) In any case, the girls were up for many hours, and amidst lots of action. So it was not that surprising to see them fuss as we packed them up in their car seats and drove back home. The vibration of the car motor helped them to fall asleep, as it usually does. We entered through the door of our dark and quiet apartment, set down the infant carriers and unclipped the harnesses, all the while hoping they would remain in the very precise state of ZONKED OUT. No such luck. When we gently put Margaret down in the crib, her eyes popped open and looked at each of us in desperation. She held up hands and shook them the way she does when she is truly upset. Elisabeth needed a diaper change and new pj's, and although she seemed to appreciate the fresh diaper, she too looked grumpy. It was undeniably a transition thing. I took Margaret to nurse, as she was the more vocal one, and Greg did his best to console Elisabeth (and teach her the virtue of patience). And as it was a warm spring evening (it has been a very cool spring; the balmy temperatures today were appropriately welcome) he stepped onto the balcony humming the German folksong "Du, du liegst mir im Herzen" with our little Elisabeth. The poor girl was clearly challenged by the uncomfortable transition of busy social interaction to quiet, settle-down-before-bed time. The following scene will be imprinted in my heart forever. It was quite possibly the most beautiful scene I have ever witnessed:
Greg had propped Elisabeth up on his right arm, and gently swayed to the simple tune he was humming. Elisabeth was distracted by the fresh air and Greg's low voice, and hushed as she looked across the yard and the silhouettes of the neighbor's yard across the street. Her tiny hand lay on Greg's bulky shoulder, as his thick fingers gently held her miniature torso. The swaying became a sweet, sweet dance that only a father and daughter can know. The dusk showed deep purple and blue lines that outlined the figures of Greg's football shoulders and Elisabeth's teeny body. The birds complemented the low humming. A soothing breeze kissed Elisabeth's soft and fluffy hair. As she sucked on her two middle fingers, I sensed her relax, as if she had taken a calming deep breath. Just as she had not understood why she felt discomfort in her fatigue, she did not understand how her caring father soothed her. She only understood his gentle and protective hold. Pure magic.
Having children has demonstrated to me, in countless ways, how little and helpless we are next to our Heavenly Father. As I watched Elisabeth settle in Greg's right arm and absorb the spring evening, I thought of how often we, as Children of God, do not understand why we feel discomfort when the over-stimulation of the day comes to an end. It is so important for our bodies and souls to take the time to transition, just as a baby needs to settle before going to sleep for the night. And like little babes, we do not understand how to handle the quietness. Yet if we allow Him to rock us, we too can experience the peace of an Easter evening. All we need to know is the soothing refuge of our Father's arms. I've found prayer and meditation to serve as that gentle swaying. The rhythmic reciting of the Rosary resembles a low voice humming in tune with the swaying. And just like my little Elisabeth, I may not understand how it works, but I trust anyway.
The beauty of Catholicism is that there are prayers and methods of mediation that have been passed on to us from centuries of practice. If we follow the examples of the Saints before us, we can come to understand deeper ways of loving God and hearing His voice. Our religion is not vain repetition of prayer, or man-made decrees that we blindly follow; it is a spiritual game plan that gives us insight to a fruitful relationship with God and others. We have the traditions from the apostles themselves, and the wisdom of holy men and women from countless cultures and historical time periods to guide us. What I have come to realize in my personal conversion experience is that the Catholic Church, when compared to other Christian churches, is not more RIGHT than the others, but more COMPLETE. There is a depth to Catholicism that I appreciate more and more each day.
And similar to a little baby finding comfort of her daddy's presence, I too will remain close to my Father. I look forward to developing a relationship that only a Father and daughter can know.
I hope you and yours had a blessed Easter. Christ is risen! Alleluia!