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Jun 24 2014

Our Ever-Growing Bedtime Routine Needs to Stop, But I’m Not Ready

By at 10:50 am

sleepless-toddler

A few weeks after my son was born, I made up a lullaby that I’d sing before putting him to bed. Back then, getting my son into his crib was a simple matter of swapping his diaper for a new one and belting out a two-minute song before calling it a night (yep, we were very fortunate). But somehow, over the past two years our bedtime routine has evolved from a quick pajama change and lullaby into a 45-minute extravaganza complete with stories, videos, and many, many songs. And it just seems to be growing by the day.

Here’s how things will typically go down: First, my son will run around his room like a maniac as I attempt to grab hold of him and lift him onto his changing table. From there, he’ll wiggle and squirm as I desperately work to get his pajamas on. After he’s clothed, we’ll head to the bathroom to brush his teeth, which often takes longer than necessary thanks to my son’s desire to touch absolutely everything on the counter before finally opening wide.

But once his pajamas are on and his teeth are brushed, the real fun begins. It starts with a story from a collection of books we store crib-side. Ever since he was about 1.5, we started giving our son the privilege of selecting his bedtime story himself. What this now means is that he’ll pick up every book on the pile before choosing one–and then once we settle into our rocking chair to read it, he’ll invariably bolt off my lap, insisting that he made the wrong book choice. If I don’t let him switch, a fit will most likely ensue, so I usually allow him one book swap before putting my foot down. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 19 2013

Finding the Perfect Lullabies for My Daughter

By at 10:11 am

lullabies illustrationAfter reading Elissa Strauss’ recent post, The Best Lullabies Turn Out to Be Jewish, I got to thinking about the songs I sing to my daughter when she goes to bed.

Before my little girl was born, I set out on a mission to find non-traditional lullabies. I didn’t want to croon about bows breaking and cradles falling or trying to buy my daughter’s peace and quiet with diamond rings. And really… who’s buying their babies diamond rings? And that’s the consolation prize only if the mocking bird doesn’t sing? Sheesh.

Anyway, I wanted to sing songs that meant something to me. See, my family instilled a love of music in me and I want to do the same for my daughter.

My mom always sang non-traditional lullabies from Peter, Paul and Mary’s “500 Miles” to “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 8 2013

The Best Lullabies Turn Out to Be Jewish

By at 4:41 pm

elissa-and-auggie

Like probably every mom ever, the arrival of my first child came along with the realization of just how many things I don’t know. One of these was lyrics to  lullabies..

During pregnancy I was working on the assumption that I would be able to sing at least a couple lullabies nearly in-full. Instead, as I discovered after I gave birth, I could barely make it to, let alone past, verse two for most of them. Considering this is a time in life when most of us barely have time to brush our teeth, taking time to learn lyrics was most certainly not an option.

Fortunately for me, in his first few months my baby responded better to loud fast songs and erratic dancing – the kind of songs I can actually sing in-full. House favorites included Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” (you know it, “I get knocked down, but I get up again…), Britney Spear’s “Toxic” and perennial favorite, Hava Negila.

But eventually his taste became more pedestrian, and he started responding better to softer, more-soothing music to help him fall asleep. Still lyric-less, I began to hum. And hum and hum and hum. And then I realized I sounded like an orthodox man.

Dai – Dai-Dai – dai dai – Dai – Dai – Dai,” I’d repeat over and over again, as his body slowly softened in my arms until, eventually, he was asleep.

What came out of mouth, more unconscious than not, were the nigguns I had heard in synagogue growing up and the free high-holiday services at the Chabad I attended during college. Nigguns, for those of you who don’t know, are melodies formed out of repetitive sounds. “Bim Bam” is the most famous and the one your probably know.

Over the next few months, these nightly nigguns became the sign, perhaps the only one for two people with internal clocks as messed up as ours were, that bedtime had come. The chanting became a threshold that we could cross-through together, as we moved from the outside world to inside ourselves, and then, to sleep.

Some believe that the beauty of nigguns is the fact that we all sound like infants when we sing them; that somehow, through these repetitive, non-sensical words we become babbling children attempting to communicate our most intimate and delicate thoughts to a higher being.

When I sing them I don’t necessarily have a higher being in mind, but I do experience a respite from  the many earthly concerns that run through my head the rest of the day. Gone is trying to get my son to eat his spinach, or come up with an ending to an essay, or figuring out what exactly I need to take with me for a weekend at my in-laws house. Gone are even the words that give shape to those worries and concerns.

In those moments we are left only with my improvised melody, his breath — our two weary bodies submitting to the day’s end. And I never had to learn a single word.

Follow Elissa Strauss on Twitter at @elissaavery.

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