Babies Don’t Keep

I took 30 of my music students on an after school field trip to go to the opera this past week.  What an incredible experience it was for them.  They showed up in fancy attire, the ladies had their hair and makeup done (a big deal as makeup is banned at our strict Catholic school!), and they got to feel what it was like to sit in a red velvet seat and be completely wrapped up in the incredible sounds coming from internationally renowned opera singers and a world class symphony orchestra, just feet in front of them.  It was a true privilege to introduce them to one of my favorite art forms.

But something that I love about doing these kinds of things with my students is that we get to hang out outside of our normal classroom time and build our relationship.  I wrapped up business with my glee club and had about an hour to spare before we started greeting opera arrivals, so I decided to join some of the kids who were hanging around the school for dinner at one of our local restaurants.  I ended up walking right behind four siblings, their mom to my left.  The kids are all two years apart, almost to the day, and they were lined up by age in front of me- like perfect stair steps.

And it really struck me.  When I first met this family, the mom had her youngest in my mommy and me music class.  He was 2.  Sometimes the other three would come if school wasn’t in session, and they were all in 2nd grade or below.  She was in the middle of parenting very young children, and she loved it.  For nearly a decade, there was an infant or preschooler in the house.  Now, here they all were- the oldest leaving for college in four short years, the youngest to follow in fewer years than he’d been in her life.

Everyone says it goes fast.  It seems like somewhere in between the heavy lifting of the infant and toddler years and the transition of the teenage years, time slips away.  Sometimes I have enough time to catch my breath and believe it.  Sometimes it feels like this will always be my life, with little babies to care for, but I know that’s not true.  There are a million little moments I wish I could bottle up and keep.  Like having two wiggly boys in footie pajamas on my lap for a bedtime story, their sweet smelling heads right under my chin.  Or getting tackled on Saturday morning by a two year old eager for hugs and pancakes.  Or picking up Little P at daycare and feeling him giggle with happiness to see mommy as I lift him into my arms.  This time in my life is so sweet.  So much work sometimes, but so sweet.

Song for a Fifth Child by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton (1921- )

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby, loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.)

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep.

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