Working with young children has some unique challenges. These days I work with children from nine months to two years old, depending on the day. Much of my day consists of interpreting and responding to their subtle needs: a fresh diaper, a drink of milk, a snack, a nap, or simply being held. A video we watched in one of my classes a couple weeks ago stated that infants and toddlers are one of the most challenging age groups to work with because they require sensitivity to these subtle cues that tell you what they need. That sounds about right.
Naptime has been particularly challenging. In the beginning, it was an all-out battleground. I came in every day, wondering who would win and hoping I could get at least one child to sleep that afternoon. I spent hours trying to get them to sleep and dreaded the moment when their parents came and I would have to share, “They lay down for a little while today but didn’t actually sleep….”.
Now that I have been there about a month and a half, I have become a little more adept at the naptime routines. I am beginning to recognize when each child is getting sleepy and I have learned how to set up an environment more conducive to sleep (I close the curtains, turn on the fan, and start some soft music). And I am learning what it takes to put each individual child to sleep (some require lullabies and back-patting; others need to be rocked for a while; and a very few would rather be left alone to put themselves to sleep) and who is more likely to go to sleep first.
Even so, these young kids fight sleep every day. It is kind of funny to watch, really. They walk around the room, rubbing their drooping eyes and crying at the drop of a hat (or, more likely, the drop of a toy). They are so obviously tired. But when I lay them down on their cots or gather them in my lap to rock, they immediately pop back up, scrambling to find a toy, a cup, another teacher, anything to try to distract me from the naptime routine. The older ones look up at me with eyes half closed and ask hopefully, “Up? All done?” I have learned to persist in laying them back down over and over, singing verse after verse of soft, rhythmic songs, until they finally succumb to sleep.
It is pretty ridiculous that they fight so hard against the rest that they so desperately need.
Actually, when I reflect on it, I am pretty sure I do the exact same thing.
How many morning have I sat down to spend some quiet time with the Lord, only to look around the house for any chores that need doing, checklists I could make, homework to start, even a book to read, anything but simply resting with Him, anything but what I really need? Thankfully God is a good caregiver who pulls me close, despite my struggle against Him, and persists in drawing me back to His heart over and over until I finally relax into His invitation to be with Him.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.” – Psalm 23:2-3