I had always imagined myself to be the kind of mother who would sing lullabies to her children. Then I had my first, and I realized that I only knew like, one lullaby from start to finish. In case you’re curious, that song was “Rock-a-bye Baby.” I’m pretty sure I didn’t have all the words right.
And talk about made-up lyrics: ask me to sing you “Hush Little Baby” sometime. Seriously. After the line, “Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring,” there’s no telling what this mama’s gonna come up with. I have a feeling I’m not the only one.
So, I had to improvise, and find some untraditional songs in my repertoire.
Here are some tips for singing The Unlullaby:
1. Sing softly. Most songs can work if you merely slow the tempo, and sing softly.
2. Sing what you know and love. If all you know is heavy metal, make it work. The important thing is that you sing to your baby, it’s not about what you sing.
3. I love 80’s rock ballads, but most of them don’t work so well. A) There’s the temptation to hum the guitar licks, which will jar a baby or toddler out of the relaxed state, and B) There’s usually a bridge or some sort of breakdown in the middle of the song that get’s pretty intense. Again, if that’s all you know, make it work.
4. Slow tempo show tunes are great.
5. Some R&B works great.
6. If a song has lots of pauses or breaks in the vocals, you have to skip those breaks. You may hear the instrumentals in your head, but baby won’t, and when you stop singing, you break the magical spell you’ve woven.
7. If you forget some of the words, make them up! I do it all the time.
8. Most importantly: There’s no room for being self-conscious! Even if you’d never sing in front of another soul, your baby/toddler/child is going to think you have the most beautiful voice in the world, so don’t hold back. This is good bonding stuff.
Here are some of my go to songs when I need to soothe a little one:
(This list of songs differs quite a bit from my “Dance Break” list.)
Three Little Birds—Bob Marley (This is the #1 best. If you don’t know it, learn it!)
Hang on Little Tomato—Pink Martini (I hum all the instrumentals on this one.)
It’s not that Easy Being Green—Kermit the Frog
Why Try to Change Me Now—Frank Sinatra (Fiona Apple did an amazing version of this song.)
Love Me Tender—Elvis Presley (If “Don’t Worry” is #1, this is probably #2.)
Aloha Oe–Hawaiian song (The Lilo and Stitch version is very soft and pretty.)
Across the Universe—The Beatles
Beautiful Boy–John Lennon
How Deep is Your Love—The BeeGees
Stay Awake—Mary Poppins
Homeward Bound—Simon and Garfunkel
Somewhere Over the Rainbow–Either the traditional musical version, or Iz Kamakawiwoʻole’s Hawaiian version
Jolene—The White Stripes version
Please Come Home For Christmas—Bon Jovi (Don’t make fun of me! I love this song!)
Seasons of Love—Rent
Moon River—Various Artists (I had to link to the Breakfast At Tiffany’s version. You understand.)
I’m sure I’ve left out tons of gems. Do you have any unlullabies, or non-traditional songs that you sing to your kids?