Sunday, June 14, 2009

Baby Grow Day

Helping someone do nothing has never been so much work.

Eva, my six-week-old daughter, has been having a rough day. Perhaps she's entering a growth spurt, perhaps she's overwhelmed with all the new things she's learning, perhaps she's just cranky. She won't sleep or stay awake. I check her diaper; that's not the problem. She won't stand to be put down, but doesn't seem to be satisfied with being held or rocked. She's just fussy - no matter what, just fussy.

It is all I can do to soothe her for a little while, in between outbursts of crying or squirming. If I can manage to keep her asleep for an hour or two, that is an accomplishment. It seems like I'm trying to help her do nothing.

Except that I realize that she's never really doing nothing. Even at rest, asleep and still, she is growing - working harder at these semmingly simple things than I do at some of my hardest work. By helping her be still for a while, it lets her body and her mind catch up to each other, lets her wrap her head around things. It isn't when she's active, but when she is at rest that she is growing.

Perhaps there's a lesson in this for me: we often help each other grow most when helping each other do nothing in particular at all. At surprising moments when we're working on other things, or when we're in one way or another asleep, quiet and unconscious, disparate parts of ourselves are working to catch up with each other, to make sense of the world as we're encountering it. Perhaps, as a parent, friend, teacher or minister, sometimes the best thing we can do is just help each other to step back, take a break.

Even now, in the time it has taken me to finish writing this, Eva has woken up from a nap, and given us her first smiles of the day. We have our baby back: the miracle of taking a little time out.

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