Sunday, May 14, 2006

"The Nightly Custom of Every Good Mother"

Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children's minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their mind and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can't) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtinesses and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind; and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on. (J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan)

Isn't this a delightful word picture? I am so grateful for my own mother who modelled for me so many good habits of thought and discouraged other mental bad habits; who, by her approval or disapproval, profoundly shaped my attitudes and decisions. Her example wasn't perfect, as no earthly parent's can be, but it was informed by total faith and trust in God and His goodness and provision--a reliable compass, indeed.

It's overwhelming to think, as a mother myself, about how much my example--good or bad--teaches my children, whether I mean it to or not! So I am grateful for the partnership I have with God in this endeavor. When I read the above passage, I smile at the whimsy, but I am moved to tears when I think of how God does this for me and for my children.

He doesn't just take our "naughtinesses and evil passions" and leave them there, even "folded up small and placed at the bottom" of our minds:

You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19b)

And as a mother who is suffering currently from severe accidental caffeine-induced sleep deprivation (on top of the usual child-induced variety), I am so grateful for what God does nightly for me through sleep and all its benefits, including sorting through my psyche:

Dreaming is a "mood regulatory system," says Rosalind Cartwright, PhD, chairman of the psychology department at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She's found that dreams help people work through the day's emotional quandaries. "It's like having a built-in therapist," says Cartwright. While we sleep, dreams compare new emotional experience to old memories, creating plaid-like patterns of old images laid on top of new ones. As she puts it, "You may wake up and think, What was Uncle Harry doing in my dream? I haven't seen him for 50 years. But the old and new images are emotionally related." It's the job of the conscious mind to figure out the relationship.

In fact, dream emotions can help real therapists treat patients undergoing traumatic life events. In a new study of 30 recently divorced adults, Cartwright tracked their dreams over a five-month period, measuring their feelings toward their ex-spouses. She discovered that those who were angriest at the spouse while dreaming had the best chance of successfully coping with divorce. "If their dreams were bland," Cartwright says, "they hadn't started to work through their emotions and deal with the divorce." (the rest of the article is here.)

There are so many mornings when it is only by His grace that I have any "prettier thoughts" for Him to "beautifully air" and "spread out for [me] to put on:"

His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning.... (Lam. 3:22-23)

Lord, I confess that sometimes I resist your loving touch on my mental drawers, preferring to not let You see what's inside them. Just now I give you full permission to "rummage in [there] and put things straight." I suppose to one who doesn't know You, that could sound like mind control or brainwashing. But just as no loved child would ever feel that way about a mother's direction or correction, so do I find peace in placing my full trust in You--especially when there are children following my example!

Happy Mother's Day, all you moms out there!


Lei said...

Thanks! And Happy Mother's Day to you, too. :) I love that passage from Peter Pan. LOVE it.

Nettie said...

That was wonderful! Happy Mother's Day to you, too!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words, daughter. I prayed to be a good mother, but could have been so much better, I'm sure. Loved this essay & I love reading your blog immensely..... Realizing how much you & your brother have in common with your writing abilities.... Love you always, Pianomum

Anonymous said...

I understand this completely on a physical level. I cannot go to bed until the house is ready for the next day of creative work and play. The baskets of books, tins of markers, and stacks of paper are inviting new discoveries if in their proper place. If left in disarray, my children avoid that area and activity altogether. I'm challenged to think of their minds this way too, now, and I appreciated being reminded of this passage that always seemed so whimsical to me before motherhood. Thanks! --Dixie