We have all heard the phrase “You made your bed, now lay in it!” symbolically suggesting a direct correlation between one’s behavior and its consequence. As we conclude the High Holiday cycle at Yom Kippur, we are reminded that while actions have consequences, we always have the power to reflect upon those actions, make amends, and strive to make improvement.
It was because of this symbolism that our annual bake sale this year focused on “Beds for Kids,” a Summit County Childrens’ Services program. “Beds for Kids” is funded solely by contributions from the community. When a social worker visits a home where children are sleeping in unsafe conditions – and the family has limited or no resources to provide a crib or bed – the social worker turns to this program for help. Because our children worked so hard in their classrooms, and because of your generous support, we earned just over $400.00. This will allow us to purchase two beds for children who have never had a bed of their own- who may have been sleeping on the floor, in sleeping bags, on a couch, or perhaps sharing a bed with multiple siblings or parents.
A bed is so much more than just a place to sleep! It provides the context for a child to feel they are indeed loved, cherished, and a priority in a parent’s life. When a parent tucks their child in for the night and reads a bedtime story, it becomes the model for an intimate, caring relationship between parent and child, and a place of security as parent and child bond and reflect back upon the day’s activities.
"Daddies can read stories and help us go to bed"
"Neural research shows that when parents and caregivers interact verbally with children -- which includes reading to them -- kids learn a great deal more than we ever thought possible," says G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D., chief of the child development and behavior branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, MD. These gains range from improved logic skills to lower stress levels. But perhaps the most profound benefit discovered in recent years is the way bedtime stories can rewire children's brains to quicken their mastery of language. Here's how the rewiring works: When you read Margaret Wise Brown's classic bedtime story Goodnight Moon to your baby, exaggerating the oo sound in moon and drawing out the word hush, you're stimulating connections in the part of her brain that handles language sounds (the auditory cortex). In English, there are 44 of these sounds, called phonemes, ranging from ee to ss. The more frequently a baby hears these sounds, the faster she becomes at processing them. Then, when she's a toddler trying to learn language, she'll more easily be able to hear the difference between, say, the words tall and doll. As a grade-schooler learning to read, she'll be more adept at sounding out unfamiliar words on the page.”
"Sometimes my parents stay with me when the when there’s thunder and lightning because storms can be scary, and then I fall asleep."
A bed can also be a rite of passage – moving from a crib to bed is a tangible symbol of growth and new responsibilities. Parents acknowledge children for being grown up, and can find ways to celebrate the move as their child becomes more autonomous. Children can now get in and out of bed more easily. This means they have more ability to make choices and be active agents in what occurs in their room. Children can pull up their own covers, decide what honored possessions (stuffed animals, toys, books, even the family pet) will share their personal space. They can learn to “self-soothe”-
go back to sleep on their own, manage “big feelings” (are there really monsters in the dark, or what about thunder and lightning?) and develop a sense of autonomy.
What does this mean in the world of early education? Routines matter. Children find comfort and security in rituals. Just as the routine things you do at bedtime (like a relaxed bath, a drink or snack, cuddle, story, a kiss and 'goodnight') help prepare children for the idea of going to bed, routines in regard to self-care are also important. Making a bed helps develop a sense of responsibility and ownership.
"Every night, we take a bath, go to bed, pick out a night/night book, and then go to sleep."
A recent study in Psychology Today found “59 percent of people don’t make their beds. 27 percent do, while 12 percent pay a housekeeper to make it for them….(Of those surveyed), 71 percent of bed makers consider themselves happy; while 62 percent of non-bed-makers admit to being unhappy. Bed makers are also more likely to like their jobs, own a home, exercise regularly, and feel well rested, whereas non-bed-makers hate their jobs, rent apartments, avoid the gym, and wake up tired. All in all, bed makers are happier and more successful than their rumple-sheeted peers.”
"I know how to tuck myself into bed!"
"I have drawers under my bed to keep stuff and a stepstool to help me get into bed.
A bed is also a place where not just the five little monkeys, but children, as well, can have fun jumping and playing. Whether it is on top of the bed, or hiding beneath it, using its covers to make tents or sails, it is a place where imagination can run free. Anthropologist Margaret Mead has noted that a person names objects that are relevant to them in a particular situation, and by defining what these objects are used for, makes them social objects. If we accept that the meaning of an object consists of what the object is used for, then a change of use also becomes a change of meaning. For example, the social object- a child’s bed- can also become a secret hiding place for the child if they choose to hide under it rather than sleep on it; it can become a boat on imaginary waves- think Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, by Eugene Field, or Where the Wild Things are, by Maurice Sendak. Novelist Ian Samson writing for BBC Magazine says: “All furniture communicates meaning - it's unavoidable. It's what things do. A bed speaks of our inner lives, of the body and the soul… beds act as transports for the imagination. Our cupboards and cabinets imply secrets. Wardrobes suggest our dreams of other worlds (think Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis). And tables invite company. The value of a table, like all pieces of furniture, lies in its history. We might make it, but furniture in turn makes us. It shapes us, defines us, and determines our everyday lives.”
And finally, there are the physiological benefits of getting a good, sound night’s sleep. Children under age 12 need at least 10 hours of sleep a night and sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Children suffering from sleep deprivation tend to be more hyperactive and experience ADHD-like symptoms. Without enough sleep, school-aged children experiencing poverty are put at a serious disadvantage and are unable to learn at their full potential. Getting a good night’s sleep is vitally important: "Not only do we consolidate memory and learning when we sleep," says Professor Paul Gringras, "but poor sleep impacts on areas like growth, immunity and blood pressure. It's no exaggeration to say that, every day, research is linking another area of physical health to sleep." When children have the ability to get a good night’s sleep, they are one step closer to completing their education and breaking the cycle of poverty. 45% of children in America are living in low-income families, and every 9 seconds during the school year, a public high school student drops out of school. These are alarming statistics! As part of the Yom Kippur service, we pray for “those who never seem to find a resting-place in the family of the secure.”Thanks to your generosity, this new year two children will be able “to make their beds, and then lay in them,” in a way which has a very profound consequences.
If your family would like to be a part of our next mitzvah project, please join us at The University of Akron Stile Athletic Field House for a 2 mile Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Oct. 4 at 9:00 am. Strollers and wagons welcomed! You do not have to make a financial contribution to participate in the walk, but you do need to fill out the registration form which went home earlier this week. (We have more in the office.) We had a great time last year- and enjoyed wonderful refreshments afterwards. You can also visit our team website if you would prefer to make an online donation.
Thanks again, and Chag Sameach (that's Hebrew for Happy Holiday!)