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Lady Lullaby Blog

Lullabies for babies, grown-ups and everyone in between!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Grandmother Effect

Here I am in the Detroit airport, delayed. Apparently the crew forgot to show up. What are these people thinking? Don’t they know that I have a grandson being born any minute now?? He’s already nine pounds and, the doctor said, and he has big shoulders like his father and grandfather, so I figure he’s ready to come but is just waiting for his grandmothers to get there to greet him.

Baby Pitt and his mother Aviva

Grandmothering is the subject of some flashy new studies that show that it’s good for all generations to have grandmothers around. Did we need a study to know that? Other cultures know this, and fully respect grandparents, realizing that there is a specific purpose for the generations being together: the elders get to share their life experience and wisdom with the little ones, parents get some much-needed help with childcare, and the babies learn that the world is full of big people who know for a fact how miraculous they are.

I used to listen to my friends talking—no, glowing—about becoming grandparents. I have to admit I didn’t get it. I loved seeing babies and could smile silly smiles and coo with the best of them, but I didn’t really understand what they were talking about.

I had to experience for myself the feelings that came up when I witnessed my own DNA in the form of a small, blanketed bundle. And while changing a really messy diaper and eye contact was first made (okay, sign me up for diaper duty). And the first time there was a genuine smile meant just for me.

Something happens in the heart—literally. When I’m with my granddaughter I feel my heart glow and grow in some subtle way that I hadn’t felt since holding my own new babies. I don’t know if there are studies for that, but I know it’s real. New parents, ask your own parents if that isn’t their experience too—I bet it is if they stop to feel it.

And so, Delta Airlines, I really have to be there when he comes. I’ll let you all know if I make it in time!
Friday, May 20, 2011

Sing with Love and Caution

Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop
When the wind blows the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all

Do you find yourself mumbling the words to “Rock-a-Bye Baby” when you sing it to your child? I did, afraid that somehow that image would scar my children for life. Maybe they wouldn’t climb trees. Maybe they would be scared of the wind. Maybe they wouldn’t feel that the world wasn’t a safe place, if Mom would hang them from a branch that was likely to break off.

What kind of parent would make up a song like that anyway?

There are several stories about the origin of the lullaby. One says that it was the first poem written by English on American soil, who observed the American Indian tradition of suspending a birch bark cradle in the branches of a tree. While the mother was working, the wind would rock the cradle and the baby would go to sleep. This practical solution for a working mother makes sense to me even if the story isn’t really true.

Another story is more colorful—there was a family in England in the 1700’s who actually lived in a tree, and so they had the right to hang whatever they wanted from it. The tree in this story is a huge, ancient Yew tree, and the family who lived there were charcoal burners named Kate and Luke Kenyon. They had eight children and hollowed out a large tree branch to use as a cradle. OK, maybe. Eight children forces you to be resourceful.

A third theory is the most dramatic of all: that the 17th century tyrant King James, in desperate need of an heir, had a baby boy smuggled into the birthing room. When the story got out it led to his downfall. The “wind” could be the political force “blowing” in from the Netherlands in the form of William of Orange, who kicked James out. The “cradle” is the royal House of Stuart. The earliest recorded version of the words in print come with a footnote: “This may serve as a warning to the Proud and Ambitious, who climb so high that they generally fall at last.”

In any case, I would advise you to either hug your baby very tight when singing this song, or change the words, as my daughter-in-law did:

“And Mommy will catch you, cradle and all!”

Sweet dreams,

The Marx Brothers had a great version of this song:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thanks, Amy!

This week I just want to give sincere thanks from Lady Lullaby to the Lullaby Lady. Confused? Don’t be---there is room in this world for all kinds of lullaby fanatics.

Amy Robbins-Wilson has a wonderful website ( that focuses on lullabies also. She shares my belief that “musical interaction between family and their babies is important to a child’s development" and she points to the fact that "all cultures sing to their infants...” Amy has graduate degrees in Ritual Song and Chant Performance, and also in Expressive Arts Therapy, so she really knows her stuff.

I was very grateful that Amy gave my CD “Midnight Lullaby” a glowing review, and am so moved by her generosity in recommending my music on her blog that I want to share her comments with you and suggest that you check out what she has to offer in the way of beautiful bedtime songs and all sorts of useful advice.

Sweet dreams,