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To be rocked September 21, 2010

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 9:02 pm
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Even when he was as old as ten or twelve, sometimes his mother would pull Tiller onto her lap and rock him, saying, “You’re never too old to be rocked.”

Tiller wondered what it would be like not to have trees and creeks and barns, and what it would be like never to have been rocked. (from Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech)

Almost exactly ten years ago I traveled to Romania with Buckner Orphan Care International for a ten-day “shoe delivery trip.” The program was called Shoes for Orphan Souls and we visited several orphanages to deliver brand new shoes and socks to children who had never had their own new shoes before. It was a humbling, heartbreaking, uplifting experience for me as a very young woman. I think about aspects of it at least twice a month.

One day we stopped at an orphanage just for babies and toddlers. We weren’t delivering shoes there and we only had about half an hour to see the place. Our instructions were to go in, pick up one or two babies and pray for them by name while we rocked or swayed. They told us the babies hardly ever get rocked. They said that they are just understaffed and overwhelmed and the best some facilities can do is give them shelter, clothing, and nutrition. Comforting their cries in a rocking chair is just too much to ask.

Since I was still in high school when I took this trip, I was required to make up a certain amount of schoolwork along the way. One of my classes was a hands-on student teaching and observation class for future teachers, so I didn’t exactly have homework. My teacher assigned me a research project to go along with my trip as a way to make up for the time I missed observing in Elementary School classrooms. I researched early brain development and the effects of the orphanage environment on the development of the children. It was heartbreaking to read the studies, to know how vitally important things like being held and rocked are to the development of young children, and to see these precious babies who were missing out. Being held and rocked and sung to are things you can never get back if you miss them at the first. The window closes.

When Benjamin was just a few months old, his pediatrician cautioned me that rocking him to sleep every night would be a headache later. He said Benjamin needed to learn how to self-soothe in order to put himself back to sleep if he woke in the night. But the words “self-soothe” always brought to mind a toddler I saw in a Romanian orphanage, swaying alone in a crib, chewing on his hand until it was raw and red. I rocked Benjamin to sleep far longer than is recommended, but I just couldn’t help it. When I was seventeen years old, I promised myself that if I ever had a baby I would rock him and rock him and rock him.

It was hard to train Benjamin to go to sleep on his own later. It took three grueling nights of letting him cry for twenty minutes, then comforting him, then letting  him cry twenty minutes more, then comforting him again. But each night he cried less and less. And it was worth it to me, to rock my baby, to know that he will never know what it was like never to have been rocked. And someday, when he’s a little older, I’ll teach him to pray for the orphans.

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4 Responses to “To be rocked”

  1. Melissa L Says:

    you just keep right on rocking!!

    I did not know this about you, Kristi. Thank you so very much for sharing. I have, however, heard about the over-crowded orphanages with babies not being held or rocked or touched often enough. To experience this first hand (at any age, much less the tender age of 17) must have been heartbreaking and devastating.

  2. Aunt Connie Says:

    Kristi McGisty, I’ll never forget when you returned home from that missionary journey……changed, a bit broken, and definitely a young woman who sought to change the world through her witness for Christ. He called you to go, and you said, “Here I am!” ……and you’ve been rocking the world around you ever since! I love you. I’m so thankful that you’re my precious niece and forever friend:)

  3. JenniferH Says:

    This is just what I needed to read after many long nights with a sleepless baby. Thank you for putting it into perspective for me. I try to remind myself that I am going to miss this someday when she is too big to be rocked!

  4. Kristi Says:

    Jennifer, I know just how you feel. Hang in there!


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