The Loveliest Song About Parenting

The Loveliest Song About Parenting

The other day, we were watching Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again for the millionth time (nine-year-old Toby is obsessed), and when this song came on, I started blubbering…

Have you heard the Abba song ‘My Love, My Life’? It was originally written as a love song, but in the movie, a mother and daughter sing it to each other. (The first stanza is sung from a new mother to her baby girl; and at the end, it’s sung from the same mother, who had died, to her now-adult daughter.)

I never felt this strong
I’m invincible, how could this go wrong
Now, here, here’s where we belong
I see a road ahead
I never thought I would dear to tread

Like an image passing by, my love, my life
In the mirror of your eyes, my love, my life
I can see it all so clearly
All our love so dearly
Images passing by
Like reflections of your mind, my love, my life
Are the words you try to find, my love, my life
But I know I don’t possess you
With all my heart, God bless you
You will be my love and my life
You’re my one and only

I held you close to me
Felt your heartbeat and I thought I am free
Oh yes, and as one are we
In the now I’ll be found
Nothing and no one can break this bond

Like an image passing by, my love, my life
In the mirror of your eyes, my love, my life
I can see it all so clearly
All our love so dearly
Images passing by
Like reflections of your mind, my love, my life
Are the words I try to find, my love, my life
But I know I don’t possess you
With all my heart, God bless you
You are still my love and my life

Yes, I know I don’t possess you
With all my heart, God bless you
You are still my love and my life
You’re my one and only.

*clutches heart, cries like a baby*

The words that especially move me are, “I know I don’t possess you; with all my heart, God bless you.” Parenting embodies that knowledge that, in the end, you must let them go but always love them so deeply.

Another beautiful song? ‘I Will‘ by the Beatles. Says a reader named Erin: “A children’s choir once performed the song ‘I Will’ at a celebration for an adoption agency. I have always loved the song, and I will now see it through the beautiful lens of adoptive parents singing to their newly adopted children. Makes me tear up every time.”

What lullabies or songs do you sing to children in your life? Do you know ‘You Are My Sunshine‘ is actually a sad love song?

P.S. Six words to say to your child, and how did you know you were ready to have a baby?

(Photo by Victor Torres/Stocksy.)

  1. Kiley says...

    I sing The Beatles “In My Life” to my infant son. It was mine and my father’s dance song at my wedding, so it’s always had a special place in my heart. When he was three months old he was having an epic meltdown and I started singing it to him, and he stopped and listened! Definitely cemented it as “our song”.

  2. Becca says...

    Come stop your crying
    It will be alright
    Just take my hand
    And hold it tight
    I will protect you
    From all around you
    I will be here
    Don’t you cry
    For one so small,
    You seem so strong
    My arms will hold you,
    Keep you safe and warm
    This bond between us
    Can’t be broken
    I will be here
    Don’t you cry
    ‘Cause you’ll be in my heart
    Yes, you’ll be in my heart
    From this day on
    Now and forever more
    You’ll be in my heart
    No matter what they say
    You’ll be here in my heart

    Yes, it’s from Tarzan, but I sang this song to my new foster baby (who would become my forever-daughter) and I cry every time. That feeling of impermanence, that intense love coupled with the reality (at first) that she might not be staying forever, it really hit me in the lyrics of this song. And now that she’s here to stay, it just reminds me of how lucky I am.

  3. Chelsey says...

    When I gave birth to m daughter, I couldn’t stop thinking about I Just Saw A Face by The Beatles. Even though it’s a love song, it spoke to me as mother/daughter song!

    I’ve just seen a face
    I can’t forget the time or place
    Where we just met
    She’s just the girl for me
    And I want all the world to see
    We’ve met, mm-mm-mm-m’mm-mm

    Fallin’, yes, I am fallin’
    And she keeps callin’
    Me back again

    <3 brb, crying.

  4. Beth says...

    I saw Brandi Carlile perform “The Mother” at a concert for the first time it had ever been performed. She brought her daughter and wife on stage and there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience. It perfectly captures the beauty, love, & frustrations of parenthood.

  5. L says...

    A previous post here on Cup of Jo recommended learning a lullaby while pregnant and singing it throughout pregnancy. We picked Deb Talan’s song, Comfort, and sang it most nights before going to sleep.

    We had an unexpectedly difficult delivery and my son was taken right away to the NICU. A few hours later when we saw him for the first time, we couldn’t hold him. He was crying and we couldn’t touch him, pure agony. My husband immediately started gently singing the song and I joined in. Our son calmed right away. Cue the nurses crying in the background while we sang. It wasn’t how I’d long imagined that moment of first meeting my son, but it is so special to me now. How grateful I was to my dear husband for turning a really difficult moment into such a special one.

    They made me leave that night to recover and my husband stayed with our son until morning. He later told me he sang that song just about all night long to keep him calm. Makes me cry every time I think about. We still sing it every night as we put him down to bed :)

    It’s now my husband’s number one advice to new Dad’s – “learn a song!!” :)

    • Kit says...

      What an incredibly beautiful story. Comfort by Deb Talan is my go-to lullaby too!

  6. Beth says...

    My daughter’s dance group did a routine to “Ooh Child”, covered by Milk, which was featured on an Olympics commercial by P&G in 2018. The commercial made me weepy, and then seeing these strong, fierce, earnest 8 year old girls dancing to it every week made me cry every time I heard it/watched them practice: 2x/week from September to May!! It was hella-embarrassing, and it still makes me cry when I hear it, but it is a quintessential parenting song to me.

    Close second: “No one’s Gonna Love you Quite Like I Do” by Jenn Grant. Sang this to my babies when we were living lonely on the East Coast.

  7. Katie W says...

    I sing “I just called to say I love you” to my 13 month old daughter. It’s our bedtime song. That, and “You are the sunshine of my life.” I just started singing that one randomly one day, and I didn’t even put it together that it was also Stevie Wonder!

    She was falling asleep on my chest one night and she was facing away from me. I was touching her little cheek, and when I started softly singing “You are the sunshine of my life,” I could feel her soft baby cheek rise into a little smile. I couldn’t see it, but I could literally feel her smile. It made my heart burst.

    And that video and song made me weep! Especially the “I know I don’t possess you / With all my heart God bless you” part. <3

  8. “Baby Mine” from Dumbo. I get almost a Pavlovian reaction every time I hear it — I get choked up, my vision is immediately blurred. In the movie, it’s such a sad song because it plays when Dumbo is getting separated from his mom but I remember my mom playing the cassette every night after she’s tucked me in and it just fills me with an overwhelming sense of love.

    Ugh I’m weeping just thinking about it!

    • Becca says...

      Aw! Each of the kids in my family had their own lullaby that my mom would sing to us and that was mine.

  9. Renae says...

    I would sing “Irish lullaby” to my son (he’s 7 now) and my husband sang “we are going to be friends” by the white stripes.

    I can never sing you are my sunshine to my son. In 2007 the 14 year old daughter of a colleague passed away. Her mom asked a very good friend of mine who also worked with us to sing my heart will go on at the funeral. It was incredibly sad. When my friend was finished, her mom asked if she could sing “you are my sunshine” as that is what she sang to her at bedtime and she wanted it to be the last song her daughter’s spirit heard before it departed with her elders (they are an aboriginal family and there is a whole tradition around a fire keeping etc). I quickly wrote the lyrics down for my friend (as I had a baby nephew who we’d sing this to) and she sang it acapella. It was beautiful and devastating and I have never been able to think of that song the same way again.

  10. MBH says...

    You have to listen to the song ‘Better’ by Toby Lightman. She wrote it when her sister was pregnant with her first of two sons. I now have two sons and listening to it is a guaranteed cry fest for me every time.

  11. Miranda Rake says...

    My dad & I have had a pretty rocky relationship—he has a hard time expressing affection, and he has a temper. But, his tenderness always shows through when he plays me a song or album he loves. When I was really little, we’d dance around the living room to “Rock This Town” by the Stray Cats, and I was crazy about “Volcano” by Jimmy Buffet and (maybe weirdly?) the Blade Runner soundtrack. When I was in middle school and didn’t get a role in a school play, he played “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones for me on the drive home from school. I remember vividly how much better it made me feel. He introduced me to Van Morrison, Emmylou Harris, and of course The Beatles, and at my wedding he insisted that our father-daughter dance song would be “Forever Young”, but The Pretenders version. I know that sharing songs that move him is how my Dad expresses his feelings and (although I hope I can be much more of an open book to my son) the music we play for him is definitely one of the many ways we tell him that we love him. What I’m saying is—in a very long-winded way—I love this topic!

    When my son (now 20-months old) was a newborn, I sang songs that soothed me as much as him—”Crazy Love” by Van Morrison, “Till There Was You” & “Let it Be” by the Beatles, “To Live is to Fly” & “If I Needed You” by Townes van Zandt also Edelwiess and Moon River. Our son was born right before Christmas, so “Silent Night” and “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” and a few other favorite carols have become even more special to me now (although I try to save them for the right season). These days, Raffi (“All I Really Need” & “Morningtown Ride”) is on regular rotation. “Beautiful Boy” doesn’t seem to strike much of a chord with him yet, but I sing it to him anyway because it just feels so good. His bedtime song is an Ernie song from my childhood called “Up Goes The Castle”. And I’m saving up “You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd” for when he’s old enough to think it’s funny. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there.

    Thank you all for sharing your songs! I am adding so many to our lullaby playlist.

  12. Lisa says...

    So when my son was a baby, there was one song called “lifney sheyigamer” (before it ends) by the israeli artist Idan Raichel, that would get him to sleep. He loved it and I must have played it hundreds of times when I was on mat leave.
    On my way into work the first day back, I was feeling a bit (INCREDIBLY) wobbly and started listening to music, and that song came on and I just sobbed in the tube, because it starts “don’t be afraid” and it was almost like my baby was telling me not to be scared, and it was all going to be ok.

    The full lyrics in case anyone is curiousלפני-שייגמר-it-ends.html

    • Nora Shields-Cutler says...

      Brandi Carlile’s “The Mother”. My husband laughs at me because I can never listen to it without tearing up. Particularly the line about “all the wonders of the world I will see a second time”. So beautiful and so honest.

  13. h says...

    Oddly enough, Manu Chao. The second night after my first was born, my husband went back home to spend the night, so he could bring my mom over to visit the next morning. The baby was hungry and cranky, my milk hadn’t quite come in, hormones were crashing, and when I tried to play some music on my laptop, the Manu Chao album got stuck on repeat when the baby finally fell asleep, so baby and I listened to them all night long. I can’t listen to those songs without the memory of love and fear and angst and a tiny hand on my chest while I wondered how we could ever take care of something so precious.

  14. Brandi says...

    There are so many “love songs” I relate to my baby son. ‘Golden Hour’ by Kacey Musgraves is a favorite. Also, ‘Born to Love You’ by Lanco, ‘Come Out and Play’ by Billie Eilish, and ‘Rhythm of Love’ by The Plain White Tees. I also sing La Vie en Rose to him as he goes to sleep.

  15. Meghan says...

    I recently watched this on a long flight. I thought, “Hey, I haven’t seen the new Mamma Mia. Sounds like a good idea.” Wrong. I was openly weeping next to a stranger on the plane.

    • h says...

      This is why I only watch action movies on flights!! :-)

  16. Jess says...

    I sing a rotation of only a few songs to my kids at bedtime, and one of them is I Will by the Beatles! It has long been my favorite song. Before I introduce any song into the bedtime routine I make sure it’s a song *I* like, since I’ll be singing it upwards of hundreds if not thousands of time. This was the very first song that I sang to my oldest when she was born.

  17. Sarah S says...

    When my oldest was born, I realized I only remembered snippets of lullabies, so spent the first few sleepless nights at home googling lyrics to all the lullabies I only partly remembered. I found a version of “hush little baby” that is less materialistic that I still sing to her every night, 3.5 years later:
    Hush little baby, don’t you cry, mamma’s gonna sing you a lullaby
    Hush little baby, don’t say a word, daddy’s gonna show you a hummingbird.
    If that hummingbird should fly, mamma’s gonna show you a bright blue sky.
    When the evening shadows fall, we’re gonna hear the crickets call.
    As their songs drift from afar, we’re gonna wish on a shooting star,
    So hush little baby, don’t you cry, mamma’s gonna sing you a lullaby.

    And with my son (1 year), I’ve altered you are my sunshine (first verse only): “You are my Leo, my only Leo, you make me happy when skies are gray. you’ll never know dear how much I love you. Please don’t take my Leo away”. His sister sometimes request I sing it with her name too :) Still one of my favorites even if the original song is a sad love song!

    • Sequoia says...

      I love that version of hush little baby! Thanks for sharing I’m mine that into the routine tomorrow

  18. Kate says...

    Reminds me of this poem, by Kahlil Gibran.
    On Children

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them,
    but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children
    as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might
    that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.

  19. Erin says...

    So many! Ever since my daughter was born some songs are just natural triggers for teals. “Songbird” by Fleetwood Mac is mine. “Oh What a World” by Kacey Musgraves and “Gracie” by Ben Folds – I dare you not to fall apart listening to them. I love Otis Redding’s version of “My Girl” and also “That’s How Strong My Love Is”. Although typically thought of as romantic songs, John Mayer’s version of Beyonce’s “XO” and “At My Most Beautiful” by REM are mostly about loving someone just so completely, like how it feels to love your child.
    Covers: “Sea of Love” by Cat Power and “By Your Side” by Beachwood Sparks
    “The Visit” by Regina Spektor makes me feel a little sad for the future.
    And kind of a fun one: “Mamma Loves Baby” by Solange on the Yo Gabba Gabba soundtrack :)

    • Erin says...

      *triggers for tears
      See? I get all weepy that I can’t even see what I type :D

    • Andrea says...

      Omg the Mamma Mia one and all of these, Erin! I just made a playlist for my daughter including these + some we’ve always loved.
      One I think is pretty cute: Honey and the Moon ❤️ My fave part is the first line, “Don’t know why I’m still afraid, if you weren’t real I would make you up” and even the chorus: “but right now, everything you want is wrong, and right now all your dreams are waking up, and right now I wish I could follow you to the shores of freedom, where no one lives” – if that isn’t the feeling of trying to put a protesting toddler to bed and wishing you could fall asleep yourself ;)

  20. Ali says...

    Forever Now by Michael Buble. It came on our bath time playlist when my son was a few months old and is such a sweet song. Makes me tear up every time!

  21. Kelly S. says...

    Love this post :) “I Will” Is indeed a beautiful lullaby; we’ve sung it often to our kids. Another favorite is “Everyday” by Buddy Holly and the Crickets. My mom has enjoyed rocking her grandchildren to “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor too.

    Singing the same lullabies to my kids over the past decade has been a gift. Some songs have stayed in babyland and have the magic to transport me instantly to those hazy days and nights; “How Deep Is Your Love?”/Bee Gees comes to mind—odd choice, admittedly, but it’s so mellow…and groovy ;) And then there are the gems (“Everyday”, “I Will”) that we will continue to sing to our kids for as long as they will let us.

  22. Allison says...

    “In my life” by the Beatles. It reminds me of how grateful I am in *this* place with the choices I have made – even whilst sleep-deprived and hormonal.

  23. CEW says...

    “Sea of Love” by cat power … with a twist for my son’s nickname.
    (Do you remember when we met? That’s the day I knew you were my Wren)

  24. Gail in Washington State says...

    Morning Town Ride…Arlo Guthrie while I nursed my son. He is now 45 years old and picking me up tomorrow and taking me to the Rolling Stones concert. Love him so much xo

  25. Robin says...

    What a wonderful world, let’s go fly a kite, somewhere over the rainbow, baby beluga <3.

    I’ll never be able to hear those songs without thinking of my kids.

    • Fiona McGr says...

      Both this song and Slipping Through My Fingers from Mamma Mia 1 make me cry and I’m not a parent (yet)! Slipping Through My Fingers makes me think about my relationship with my mother and I know in future I will feel that way about my children too!

  26. Jaime says...

    When my son was born I wanted us to have a song that was just for us to sing together – not for Dad, not for a sibling later down the road. I chose “Beautiful Boy” which John Lennon wrote for his own son. We spent many many nights in the rocking chair singing that song, and I hope one day we’ll dance to it at my beautiful boy’s wedding. I can’t wait to choose my next baby’s song and will be perusing these comments for ideas!

  27. Mac says...

    My mom and I saw Mamma Mia in theaters the week of my wedding (11 years ago!). There were many tears 😭 😂❤️

  28. Lisa says...

    YES! My mom and I took my daughter to see Mamma Mia 2 in the theater, (obsessed with Mamma Mia last summer) and that song got both of us big time.

    Just the other night I started laughing while singing my standard song that both kids love. It started as a joke after my husband and I watched “How I Met Your Mother” and there was an episode where Sheldon is sick and he makes Penny sing him the Soft Kitty song. I joked that I’ll bet C would like that song, he has some Sheldon tendencies, and sure enough, it became his favorite. I would sometimes mix it up with other things, but he would get mad and demand Soft Kitty, with no alterations. LOL. He still asks for it and he will be 10 in 2 weeks. <3

    • Colleen says...

      Love this topic! I sing Stay Awake from Mary Poppins and Edelweiss frequently, and my son also loves Eight Days a Week by the Beatles. One that I can’t sing (because I definitely don’t have the voice) but I think is so beautiful when considered from a parent to a child is How Long Will I Love You – there is a beautiful version by Ellie Goulding. I can’t hear it without tearing up!

  29. Erin says...

    My mother always sang Silent Night, the Christmas carol, because it was the only song for which she knew all the words. When my oldest was born, I came up with more lullaby lyrics for the tune.

    Baby Beluga (Raffi, although I think I came up with my own verses in those long nights) and Country Roads (John Denver) are also regulars.

  30. I have always sung You Are My Sunshine to my now 2-1/2-year-old granddaughter Abelina when putting her to bed. We sing the original verses, then add a third verse…
    You are my Abby
    My only Abby
    You make me crabby when you cry
    But when you smile
    Just for a while
    I’m so happy I could fly
    We both love it and it makes bedtime and tucking in so much easier!

    • Allison says...

      That is so sweet, Jane! Brava!

    • Nicole says...

      Oh this makes my heart melt. What a lucky granddaughter you have.

  31. HeatherL says...

    The original Mamma Mia! Slipping Through My Fingers…Meryl Streep sings to Amanda Seyfried while getting her ready for the wedding. I was painting my 14 year old daughter’s toes for her 8th grade graduation ceremony and she asked me to sing it! I was crying! I hope I can sing it to her before her wedding.

    Slipping Through My Fingers
    Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
    Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
    I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
    And I have to sit down for a while
    The feeling that I’m losing her forever
    And without really entering her world
    I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter
    That funny little girl
    Slipping through my fingers all the time
    I try to capture every minute
    The feeling in it
    Slipping through my fingers all the time
    Do I really see what’s in her mind
    Each time I think I’m close to knowing
    She keeps on growing
    Slipping through my fingers all the time….

    • SusieG says...

      YES! This is just how I feel when I watch this with my daughter. Gah. It gets me every time. She’s 12 and if she asks me to paint her toes before her first dance while singing this song? I’m not sure my heart could take it :)

  32. Erica says...

    This post made me stop short because the baby in the photo looks like my son Gavin who will be one month old tomorrow!

  33. Sue Harris says...

    On a lighter note, I love the song “That’s my Daughter in the Water” by Loudon Wainwright III

    • alison says...

      Yes!!!! Everything she knows I taught her. Everything she owns I bought her. The best!!!!

    • Brenna says...

      Seriously the best!!!!