In a Children's Classic, a Soothing Lesson

Clair Ward
Grandfriends Day is not only a wonderful opportunity to welcome you to campus and give you a window into the magic that happens here everyday, but it is also an opportunity to extend our home/school partnership to each and every one of you. Thank you for being here with us today.

I invite you to listen to some words from a children’s book that you might recognize...

In the great green room
There was a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of—
(Can you remember the next line?)
The cow jumping over the moon
 
Do you know the name of the book? Raise your hand if this book has been a part of your own world, or your world with your grandchildren and special friends.
 
Of course, it is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.
 
In my house, this was a board book that my daughter carried around. It was one of the first books that she memorized, and it was often a part of her bedtime routine. In our house, simply reading the book was a way to soothe a child, but inevitably it also had a similar effect on whichever adult was reading it to her. It has a cadence and a pattern that allows the mind to settle into a comforting mode. And most of us recall it being read with a soft tone. The words matter less than the spirit of quieting the mind and the body:
 
Goodnight room
Goodnight moon
Goodnight cow jumping over the moon
Goodnight light
And the red balloon
Goodnight bears
Goodnight chairs
Goodnight kittens
And goodnight mittens
 
We live in very hurried times these days. People struggle to eat well on the run, and the amount of sleep that children and adults get each night is declining. Technology plays an increasingly prominent role in our “down time” in spite of the research that says that screen time affects our sleep and body rhythms.
 
As adults, we need to be role models. Children need to see us able to soothe ourselves. We need to ask children to practice self-soothing in ways other than digital devices. While Goodnight Moon may no longer be a child’s preference, what are similar activities that a child could do to self-quiet? Singing? Reading? Knitting? A quiet walk? A game outside?
 
We spend a lot of time as a culture soothing infants with things like Goodnight Moon. As children get older, we spend less and less intentional time doing this important and nurturing task for children. I wonder if you can remember the last time you saw an older child being soothed.
 
Goodnight little house
And goodnight mouse
Goodnight comb
And goodnight brush
Goodnight nobody
Goodnight mush
And goodnight to the old lady whispering “hush”
 
As you sit here today, on Grandfriends day, I urge you consider ways to re-incorporate soothing routines back into your time with our children. As adults, let us model for them ways in which to quiet the body and the mind other than those that take electricity. If nothing else, you can practice your quiet voice.
 
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    • Detail: Goodnight Moon

    • Ward speaking on Grandfriends Day