Rock a Bye Baby

I love rocking my daughter to sleep. I hold her close and move left and right, up and down, diagonal, in a circle, or in any other way that soothes her. I softly sing the lullabies on this site, and I think about how cute and wonderful she is, and how lucky I am to be in well-dressed nursery in a warm home, with my precious baby girl in that moment.

Sometimes she puts her head on my shoulder and goes right to sleep, but it can take a while to get there. Sometimes I lose my place in the song and think about other things.

The other day I sang “you are mother’s delight”, just as Julia crescendoed her defiant screams, showing no signs of submitting to forced slumber. I gave her a miniature sarcastic look and realized the verse is one of very few positive nursery rhymes.

So while rocking, singing and trying to sooth, I came up with a theory that I think sweetly explains the sad, accident-prone stories in older lullabies.

It seems that singing something nice about a baby that’s crying in your arms may only bring the baby a sarcastic look or worse – shortened patience from the soother. But singing about cradles falling out of a tree might put the baby’s crying in perspective, and the soother might be motivated to hold the baby a bit closer and longer. Obviously no babies are rocked in trees, but just the image might be enough to help a tired and sore mother who desperately wants baby to quiet, to find a little extra patience by herself in the middle of the night.

I think it is possible that the worst nursery rhymes have good intentions and can provide better outcomes for high needs babies before nap and bed time. If nothing else, it helps me to think about the many women who’ve crafted and sung versions of these songs all over the world while rocking babies to sleep. I wonder if the lyrics affected them in this way, or if there are other levels of motherhood left for me to unlock – perhaps after singing to Julia for years rather than months my theory will deepen, or be dropped. Either way I consider myself lucky to be able to explore humanity through nursery rhymes – even if it only ever means I’ve had too much time to overthink things in a pretty polka dot nursery.

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