[ Just as important as a clean tushy are the milestones of morning and night ]
When you have a child, both that final thud in their crib that marks the day’s end and that morning cry that signals a new one are major events. Towards evening, we schedule bedtime and hurry around its chaos. Through the night, we wish we could push off the morning’s demands. Sunrise and sunset signal a baby’s peek hours of need. When they arise charged to live another day, they need a diaper change, feeding, outfitting and playing. Before they vulnerably submit to the night sky, they need attention, bathing, feeding and diapering (just change the orders, it’s all the same).
A few weeks ago, I was feeling like my life was a repetitious movie of wake-ups and put-to-sleeps. In the morning, I would be half sleeping and stumbling when I followed the sounds towards my son's cries. If it was a sleepless night, I would already look forward to getting more sleep that night. The day always passed too quickly and came nightfall, I would practically drift off with him during that ever-so-long feeding. When I plopped him down into his crib, I mentally wiped the day’s sweat off my forehead and started counting the sleep I was missing by not going to bed right away.
This is where the sweet melodies of Shema and Modeh Ani have come to my rescue.
My parents’ attention to saying Modeh Ani and Shema with us as kids is a sweet memory I was excited to replicate with my own kids. But in the early months of my son’s life, I have to admit I failed miserably. For a lot of poor excuses, and mostly just lack of truly caring, I am embarrassed to say that I left my son’s nights and mornings void of these cherished and pivotal Jewish rituals. Subconsciously, perhaps I didn’t realize how essential they could be in the life of a little baby that seemingly doesn’t understand much, certainly not the deep philosophical words of Shema or the appreciative prayer of Modeh Ani.
But my thinking, or lack thereof, was flawed. Every parent knows that melodies play an important role in a baby’s daily schedule and overall development – all the more so the important Jewish melodies that you hope to be a mainstay in your child’s life! If I didn’t start now, then when? How else would I imbue my child with these iconic Jewish practices? What better time to start offering the rewards of a day both started and ended in thanks?
Thankfully, my husband was making sure our son drifted to sleep and woke up with Shema and Modeh Ani. But it was time for me to start waking up to the responsibility. And when I did, I discovered another motive - something equally important to my sons healthy upbringing. I realized quickly that the Mimi that neglects to say Shema with her son and the Mimi that remembers are two different mothers. One is harried, tired and off somewhere in her brain while the other is calm, loving and completely present. One is rushed and selfish; the other is calm and giving. One is sleeping. One is awake.
Saying Shema and Modeh Ani out loud is now becoming essential to my normalcy as a mother. Just as important as a clean tushy are the milestones of morning and night. The sweet, meaningful prayers remind me that another day is starting and another has passed. It is a simple acknowledgment that means I am no longer sleeping through my son’s daily routines – I am honoring them. Certainly, I can still say Shema and Modeh Ani with a groggy mind, but it's a starting point that has set the bar a lot higher. It takes just a little more energy to properly reflect and segue into night and day, but it means a world of difference to my growing family.