Songs We Sing to Our Children

July 29, 2010

When I was a teenager, I was under the delusion that I was going to be a famous musical theater actress, and that lasted until college, when it dawned on me that  I have the thinnest skin in the entire world and would last about one nanosecond in the life of a want-to-be professional actress.  I gave up on the dream pretty easily, with two small side effects:  I could no longer tolerate the show tunes about which I used to obsess, and I went from singing all the time to barely singing at all.

The only time I did get to sing was as a nanny, putting other people’s children to bed, and I loved it.  I’d forgotten how much I loved it until I became a mom and had kids of my own to sing to sleep.  Now, I sing to the littles (that’s what I generally call the 2 and 4 year old; have I used that here yet?) almost every night, and I’d sing to the oldest if he wouldn’t roll his eyes and slam the door in my face (and if he ever went to bed before 3 am.)

There’s one big difference between my nanny singing and my mommy singing, and it’s not that my voice is now filled with a motherly love that I could never before have imagined.  It’s that I’ve completely lost my ability to choose appropriate songs, and that my kids don’t seem to care.  My nightly repertoire is dark… like, really dark, like, possibly giving my wee ones severe gloom and doom complexes.   Here’s a selection of my sad, sad songs:

So, that last one, my kids LOVE.  In general, actually, my kids love Johnny Cash.  Corrina was bopping her head to Ring of Fire before she could even hold her head up consistently.   Plus, how great is that video of Joni & Johnny singing together?  But, when it comes down to it, someone gets hung in that song.  That’s gotta be an automatic fail Parenting 101.

Even my less melancholy choices are problematic.  I’m partial to Softly and Tenderly, despite the fact that we’re Jewish, Jesus is probably not calling for me, and I am really not ready to talk to my toddlers about sinners.  The melody is just so pretty!  I’ve also always had an affection for What’ll I Do, although it’s a terrible choice in this family, where kids don’t necessarily stay forever and moms can’t sing songs like this without tearing up.

My point is, obviously, I’m in need of some suggestions.  What do you sing to your kids?  What did your parents sing to you?  I’ve got to change things up around here, or we’re all going to lose the will to live.   Help a mama out.

-Meryl at the Goose

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19 Responses to “Songs We Sing to Our Children”

  1. Ava Says:

    I sing my boys a song that my mom made up for my sister and I when we were little. She would rock us and sing it to us. I don’t know all the words, and can’t ask because she passed away when I was 13. But I think she’d be happy with what I do remember. 🙂

  2. Michelle Says:

    I like the song “Baby Mine” from dumbo! It’s sweet!

  3. Jennifer Says:

    I tend to sing what my mother sang to me:

    Golden Slumbers

    O Can You Sew Cushions

    Or these they I learned when teaching in NYC:
    A La Nanita Nana

    Somos El Barco

    Or this one that I’ve always loved:
    Goodnight My Someone from Music Man

    I could go on for a while…but I’m a music teacher who’s 7 year old still likes lullabies.

  4. Janessa Says:

    “Somebody Loved” by The Weepies. Our daughter is only 10 days old, but this song has been an in utero hit for months already. 😉

  5. Laura Love Says:

    I sing Baby Mine as well, I’ve been singing that to my babies for what feels like forever (the oldest baby is almost twelve). My sweetheart sings quite a different tune, but it’s magical and keeps Luca captivated. The song he sings to Luca at night is Goodnight, Demonslayer by Voltaire (a funky musician with a tweaky sense of humor). It’s one of our favorite songs.

  6. Michael Rosten Says:

    I had a simple tradition. A rocking chair and Taps.
    Still have the rocking chairs. Can’t wait to see if I remember the words when (and if) my grandkids make it for a sleepover. After all, “Day is Done…”

  7. Emily Monkey Says:

    My father and I sang these two endlessly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNskh83Cptk

  8. Emily Monkey Says:

    My father and I sang these two endlessly:

    • Emily Monkey Says:

      I’m sad that (a) I somehow posted that twice and (b) it gives a picture for Rose but just a subtle link for my absolute favorite singing song, Today.

  9. Sandy Repp Says:

    I sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” ad infinatum to my daughter. One of my fondest personal memories is my own grandmother, singing “In the Garden” to me as a youngster, which never fails to make me think of her when I hear it now.

  10. Amy Says:

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who sings (somewhat inappropriate) Johnny Cash and other songs to my kid. I’ve been banking on her being too young to understand, but that will only last so long…

  11. Kelly Says:

    When I was pregnant with my first child, I got a book of lullabies from the library that included a cassette (yes, a cassette) and I taught myself three or four lullabies. I wondered if it was one of those things that I would do, but later think was a waste of time – but I actually sang those songs for many years (“Lullabye and Goodnight”). Now that the kids are older, we rotate through musicals obsessions: On Sunday, my youngest is having a “Man of La Mancha” themed birthday party (don’t ask how I’m pulling that off). Both girls loved two very inappropriate musicals: Sweeney Todd and The Producers.

  12. Asha Says:

    It’s Willie and Janis and camp songs at our house. Oh, and gospel, though we’re not Christians. “Peculiar Way” by Willie Nelson, “Bobby McGee” (the Janis version), “Precious Lord”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and this really odd/funny song about Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap that got made up at my summer camp in about 1982. I figure I want my girls to learn to sing with passionate abandon, so I sing them the songs that make me want to sing that way. It seems to be working. I think Hazel might be Ethel Merman reborn and Ruby’s already, at not quite 3, got an extensive repertoire. I also figure that bedtime is one of my least favorite times of the day because I’m so wiped by then so I might as well make it fun for me, too.

  13. Gwynne Says:

    My mom sang “Beginnings” to us by Chicago. Some of my best memories are sitting on the beach at our cottage listening to her sing that song while my uncle played it on his guitar.

  14. Kate Says:

    My husband has always sung long black veil to our kids also!

  15. casey Says:

    my dad sang two lullabies to us: one was a version of the grateful dead’s bid you good night http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROPcZ8S_nwE, with the religious parts replaced with personal — so it was “lay your head on your felix’s chest” (felix was my stuffed bear) instead of “on your saviors breast” and “i love you, but your mommy loves you the best” instead of “jesus loves you the best” — the other was the baby tree http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rkz4safz1Do

  16. casey Says:

    also — the only link to baby tree i could find was some strangers photo montage. sorry if that s creepy.

  17. Margie Says:

    Maybe because my parents always sang up in the front seat of the car when we took road trips, I sang to my babies in utero. Many of the songs were in French, such as the 59th Street Bridge Song. Every night, for as long as my son or daughter could fit on my lap, I would sing an endless medley that included My Favorite Things, Little Cowboy/Cowgirl from The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Annie’s Song from John Denver (played at our wedding), Amazing Grace, Inchworm and selections from Sesame Street which I started watching as a graduate student in the late 60s. There has never been anything more calming to me than singing to or with my children – and now my grandchildren.

  18. Kriss Eckenrode Says:

    We have some standards in our house, but the current favorite is Itsy-Bitsy spider…Bella can also sign this song so I’m sure that is part of the draw.
    The Do-Re-Mi song from Sound of Music can captivate and calm her down usually regardless of the situation. From her birth we’ve played all of Pink Floyd songs to her so I can’t really pick a favorite because I tend to sing whatever song is in my head.
    But I feel like I should also mention Cream’s Tales of Great Ulyses (love the lyrics, “Tiny purple fishes
    run laughing through your fingers”)


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