Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Lavender Lullaby -- It Works!

When Drew was a newborn, my friend Mary introduced me to infant massage. She held a class for those interested, and while most students brought a doll to "massage," I got to bring my new baby boy. As I practiced the techniques at home, this shared time with my son turned into a very tender, special routine. My boy grew and wiggled and eventually toddled away, and the massages went by the wayside. The practice was revived briefly with Bethie upon her arrival, and I probably gave Aidan a token rub or two. I'm drawing a complete blank when it comes to Little Miss Avery Kate. That's how it is.

A few years slipped by, and I found myself frustrated with the bedtime routine in our home. I wanted it to be a calm, peaceful hour, but it was more often a frazzled, whining mess. Not at all conducive to pleasant dreams. I stumbled upon the idea of spraying a light, fragrant mist on the kids' pillows (I think this was my sister's suggestion), in hopes of adding a calming element to the evening. It worked for a while, and then we moved, the mist was misplaced, and I forgot about it. (Have you detected a pattern here? I have a terrible memory.)

Recently, Little Miss Avery Kate has struggled at bedtime. I recalled the fragrant spray idea, but all I could find in the house was my perfume. I lightly misted her pillow for several nights, and she enjoyed the sensation that mama was right there with her. It didn't take long for me to realize, however, that this would end up being a rather costly way to scent the pillow of a five-year-old.

A few weeks ago, as I scanned the aisles at Trader Joe's, I noticed that they carry lavender oil. When I saw that it came in a spray bottle, I figured that I just might have stumbled upon the perfect solution.

I brought the oil home, and that night told Miss Kate that I had a special treat for her. Because it was an oil and not just a fragrance, I figured that I probably shouldn't squirt it all over the place. And then I remembered the infant massage. Avery's "special treat" evolved into a cozy, lavender back massage. We chatted, prayed and giggled. She felt my touch, heard my voice. And we knew we had discovered a beautiful new evening ritual.

Before long, the back massage wasn't enough. It became necessary to include the arms, legs, tummy and face as well. Word got out, and soon Aidan was begging for the special treatment. So I made my rounds, rubbing little backs, whispering gentle prayers. Bethie jumped on the bandwagon, and finally Drew hinted, "Maybe you could do my back?"

My heart found delight in discovering something so simple (we're talking five minutes here, folks) that spoke volumes to my children. I marveled over how special this time was for each of them, and then I realized why it worked so well for their varied personalities.

Do you remember the love languages that Dr. Gary Chapman wrote about several years ago? Basically, he states that we express and respond to love in five different ways. Most people fall primarily into one category or a combination of the following: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

My children represent each one of these "languages" in their own unique ways. And this simple little lavender rub happens to fall into each category -- physical touch is obvious. But also the time I spend with each one, the gift of the massage, the service of working out little tension spots in a child's back, and the affirming words spoken as we spend time together. So no matter how they respond to love, they are sure to feel that their mama cares very deeply about them.

Bedtime is slowly but surely transitioning into a more peaceful hour around here. I've definitely noticed a difference in the younger two. They are more inclined to stay in bed and tend to fall asleep more easily, too. This is especially the case when we have a calm, predictable routine involving a decent bedtime, a story or two, prayer, and plenty of hugs and kisses. And knowing that they can now have a longer massage if they're in their beds on time? Well, it works!

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith 1908
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