By Phillip Garside
Our second child did not sleep for the first three years of his life. When I say “did not sleep” I mean he slept maybe two or three hours a night, but rarely more than 30 minutes at a time.
The boy had certain sensory stimulation and processing issues that made it near impossible for him to fall and stay asleep. The ritual for getting to sleep was a grueling, hours-long process consisting mainly of “firm” rhythmic back-patting.
One night, I was doing all I could do in that situation to stay awake, counting, keeping rhythm, singing, thinking and praying. It was at that dark hour that I was tempted to bitterness by remembering that in the 1970s the consecrated members of the church decided that Matins, prayed at 2 a.m., was no longer nocturnally required. The bitterness came because those childless consecrated could discern that this discipline was no longer necessary for their spiritual edification.
However, parents have no such option of discernment.
The night prayers of the parent do not follow a rhythmic schedule. They chaotically and haphazardly manifest, and, once initiated, last the rest of our lives. When those prayers involve making children, they are joyful. But, when they involve comforting or worrying about children, they are frustrating and exhausting.
Unfortunately, the latter is far more durative than the former. The prayers of the parent differ in nature from the prayers of the consecrated. But the moment we recognize our experiences as prayer, any bitterness can fall away and we can glorify God according to the unique manner of our state in life.
(Exploring some of the unique ways parenthood affords prayer.)