Toby and Anton

What lullabies do you sing? A reader named Stacy recently commented:

“What songs do you sing to your kids? I hunted far and wide for the perfect lullaby to teach myself while I was pregnant — and that I wouldn’t get tired of after singing a million times. With the help of a friend, I found ‘Comfort‘ by Deb Talan, and it’s been lifesaving. I sang it no less than 12 times a day when my daughter was a newborn. Now, all I have to do is start singing and she becomes putty in my arms. It’s truly Pavlovian.”

The job of a good lullaby is to help “lull” a child to sleep. Ideally the song will be “interesting enough to capture a child’s attention, but not interesting enough to keep the child awake,” writes Rivka Galchen in the New York Times, which is perhaps why most lullabies are “confined to about five notes” and mimic a rocking rhythm. And they really work: Researchers found when premature babies were sung lullabies, they had lowered heart rates and improved sleep.

But even if the tune is soothing, some old-school lyrics are really freaky — like this Icelandic number:

Beeum, beeum, bambalow, Bambalow and dillidillidow.
My little friend I lull to rest.
But outside
A face looms at the window.

(What?! Terrifying! If you live in Iceland, have you ever heard that one?)

For our boys, I typically sing Edelweiss, You Are My Sunshine, or made-up songs about Toby and Anton’s days. And I also love regular songs that can double as lullabies — Anton often requests Leaving on a Jet Plane, and I’ve been singing I Will by The Beatles since Toby was a newborn. How sweet are the lyrics when you imagine them from a mother to a child?

I Will
The Beatles

Who knows how long I’ve loved you
You know I love you still
Will I wait a lonely lifetime
If you want me to — I will.

For if I ever saw you
I didn’t catch your name
But it never really mattered
I will always feel the same.

Love you forever and forever
Love you with all my heart
Love you whenever we’re together
Love you when we’re apart.

And when at last I find you
Your song will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do endear you to me
You know I will
I will.

Separately, did you know that You Are My Sunshine is actually a devastating love song? Here are the full lyrics, if you’re curious.

What about you guys? Any favorite lullabies? I’d love to hear…

P.S. On being a touchstone, and six words to say to your child.

(Photo of Toby and Anton sharing a bed.)