Sleep my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.

Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon and blow,
Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.

Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother’s breast,
Father will come to thee soon;
Silver sails all out of the west,
Under the silver moon:
Sleep my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Baby Zeke was born on the afternoon of Thursday, December 13 2007. I will remember this day fondly and for a number of reasons. The arrival of one’s firstborn is an occasion not to be forgotten. There was also directed at our newly expanded family that day an outpouring of love, affection and good wishes from numerous friends and family. The experience was exhausting, exhilarating and a fitting kick-off for what has proven to be a fun, scary, difficult, frustrating and rewarding experience so far. And that’s just the first five months.

Now, the day, or night rather, that I do not remember so well is that Tuesday night. That night we were still several days out from the official due date. I was still able to run out for a taco at a moment’s notice, heedless of the needs of anyone in my house but myself. I hazard a guess that I had gone for a leisurely run of between three and five miles early that morning. That Tuesday night, dear citizens, is the last time I slept the whole night through, unfettered by the late night and early morning concerns that would soon hold sway in our home.

Simply reading Tennyson’s “Sleep my little one, sleep” gives me a feeling of restfulness that I have all but forgotten. There is a tinge of yearning in his lines, but it is a yearning afforded the speaker by hours of restful sleep, and the resulting wakefulness spent contemplating the rambunctious newness of life before father comes and his pretty little one is carried by the waves of deep sleep under the silver moon. The poet knows that the cradle will rock, the baby will wake, and life will pick back up but he is wise enough to urge his young child to sleep, sleep.

In Tennyson’s poetry we feel the rhythm of nights and days. This, as the saying goes, happens to be the rub. Yes, I miss the number of hours, but what I find myself wishing for most is the regularity of sleep. If I am destined to nap a meager four hours, let them be the same four hours. But no, baby Zeke makes his wakeup calls scatter shot depending on the evening and the mood. Sometimes 11, 1, 3 and 5; other times 10; 2:30; 4 and 6. We never know and so we go to bed not necessarily in fear but in restless anticipation – the sort of thing we could well start an office pool over if not for our nearness to the consequences.

By now you may think that he doth protest too much. And I concede. Yes, I am tired; yes, I would love to be free to leave the house with my wife past 7 o’clock at night; and yes, I even miss the Sunday mornings at 5:30 AM when I found myself at the cusp of a 13 mile run wondering just what the hell it was I was about to get myself into.

So here’s where it gets good. None of those things compares with the one routine I can now count on. Morning is Zeke’s favorite time of the day, and as soon as he’s out of his crib for the day he turns on the charm. His toothless smiles are enough to brighten any morning, even at 4:30 when he’s clearly up for the duration. He smiles, coos, giggles and puts on a display of general happiness rarely seen in day-to-day life. This is my new constant in life. It doesn’t replace the hours of sleep, but it sure makes the lost hours worthwhile. And, of course, this too shall pass. Too often we’re eager to rush on to what’s next, all the while complaining about how good it used to be.

I look forward to the days where Zeke sleeps and I know I will come to him soon. But for now, I come to him on his terms, as early and often as he needs me. And every time I hope I can remember the lines from another of our dead white poets:

“I have no name:
“I am but two days old”
what shall I call thee?
“I happy am,
“Joy is my name.”
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy but two days old,
Sweet joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while,
Sweet joy befall thee!

-William Blake


One Response to “Sleep my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.”

  1. Rainey Says:

    This is beautiful. And those smiles and happy kicks really do hit a reset button, don’t they?

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