“Hhhmmmm…..la la la la…….mmmm…..yeah, yeah yeah”
30 seconds later:
“Ahhhhhhh, ah ah ah ah. La la la la, la la la la la la. Ah, ah ah ah ah ah ah. The girl who has…everything.”
15 seconds later.
“Joy to the world. Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah..”
And so on.
This is the common soundtrack to our mornings. My five year old almost always starts singing before she’s out of her bed after waking up in the morning. She doesn’t discriminate with her choice of material – Disney songs, made up gibberish, hymns – anything is fair game and her repertoire is vast. I don’t know that she even has a favorite song – singing is just something that brings her joy.
Which gets me thinking about what needs to be in place for a human being to wake up filled with joy. I’m happy that she is content in her life and wakes up in a good mood, for sure. Not every kid has that opportunity, so I’m grateful my spouse and I have the means to provide the environment that allows the feelings that foster ample singing. But it also makes me wonder what we can learn from the scenario. Why is Eva so joyful when she wakes up? What leads to the urge to do what she loves to do immediately after entering a new day, and the follow through to go ahead and do it? How can we adults remember what that feeling is like and re-cultivate it for ourselves? Sure, there’s the whole ‘being an adult means having myriad responsibilities, along with the knowledge of the pain and despair that’s so prevalent in the world today” thing. But what if we could set ourselves up for a happier start to the day? What if we could wake up singing?
Eva goes to bed at approximately the same time each evening. She watches 15 to 20 minutes of a children’s video followed by a warm bath, and then Nick or I read with her for awhile in dim lighting. Whoever’s putting her to bed turns on her lamb nightlight and a recording of running water. Meanwhile, Eva crawls up into her bed, which she has adorned with her favorite things, gets snuggled under her blankets, and we talk briefly about the day, say a prayer and turn out the lights. It’s worth saying that sometimes she sings herself to sleep, too, but sometimes she is uncooperative and moody-she may be pretty joyful most of the time, but she’s still a human five year old. But that’s the routine, and we rarely deviate from it unless we are out of town or have a special event to attend in the evening.
When we stick to this routine, a child that wakes up singing is the norm. And like most kids, in the hours leading up to bed time, she’s fully present in what she’s doing during the day – she’s not multi-tasking. She’s immersed in the task or activity at hand, not worrying about what she did an hour ago or what she’ll do tomorrow. (at least from what I can tell.)
So, what can we learn from this?
- Go go bed at the same time every night.
- Take some time to wind down quietly in dim lighting before you try to fall asleep. (one deviation from Eva’s routine: preferably without an electronic device – skip the video.)
- Read a chapter – just one, not the whole thing – in book that you love.
- Adorn your sleeping space with things that add beauty to your life, but reduce the unnecessary clutter. This matters.
- Say goodnight to the people with whom you share space, and maybe even a prayer, if praying’s your thing.
- White noise – try this. It can help if you have trouble falling asleep or wake easily due to being a light sleeper.
- During the day, try to do one thing at a time. Resist the urge to open 10 tabs on your computer. Turn the sounds off of your phone unless you are an on-call ER doctor or OBGYN. Sip your coffee, and just sip your coffee. Go for a walk around the block, and just walk. Talk to a colleague, and truly listen to that colleague because that’s the only thing you are doing at that moment. Allow yourself to be present in whatever you are doing, one thing at a time.
There is wisdom in the routines that work for young children. Getting enough rest is an important component of joy. And there is a lesson in the way young children are present to their routines. We adults can take a cue from those who are small, and if we do, well, perhaps we will wake up singing.