Poetry: Hamilton – Song for a Fifth Child

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Song for a Fifth Child by Ruth Hamilton

I came across this poem while laying on the floor of my kids’ bedroom, waiting for them to fall asleep. Honestly, it couldn’t have found me on a better day. The day before, I had lost my cool every time my kids’ lost theirs. It was a miserable, tear-filled day that I couldn’t wait to end. It was also my “chore day.” This usually lands on a Wednesday unless that Wednesday happens to be a shopping day, in which case chores happen on Thursday. But this week, they happened both days because, well…because we all lost it. It was a day. And I’d had a lot of those.

But then I lay on their floor as I waited for them to fall into a deep sleep. I waited so that I could go do something I wanted to do, have some “me” time to read and write. And then, amid doom-scrolling through Twitter, I found this simple poem.

I love this poem. It is reminiscent of some I have written but with a different voice. It is the voice of someone who has had to say more goodbyes to childhood than I have, someone who has rocked more sleepy babies and laid them down one last time. The words made me laugh, and they sobered me, as I hope they will you. On this same day, I watched a video of my father playing “cars” with my daughter. The video was very in-fashion with my daughter’s personality, and my father played so well with her. It, too, made me laugh and sobered me. Because I don’t have many (any?) memories like that with my grandparents. I hope my children will have many more, memories where we spent time to sing and play and be together.

So, as I finish writing this, I hear my children begin to wake. I will need to make pizza and watch a movie with them because that’s what every other Thursday is for. But between these schedules and chores and things I must do, I will pause to enjoy my time with them. I will cherish these snuggles, color with crayons when asked, and play pretend on the floor. Yes, I’ll get to my writing, those dishes will eventually get done, and maybe one day, I’ll record another video. But first, I’ll tell those pestering to-do’s to hush now so I can hear instead the voices of my babies.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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