As far as we know, parents have always sung their children to sleep. It’s understood that for a young child the melodies and rhythms of simple songs add to the already profoundly comforting experience of a familiar voice. And the comfort can go the other way too. Sometimes the bonding experience of sharing lullabies can have an impact on the carer, and sometimes that impact can be carried in the heart for decades, to re-emerge when that child becomes a parent herself. Stephanie Iadanza shares her own very personal story of the joys of the lullaby for both parent and child.
I didn’t grow up in what I’d call a musical household… You know, you always hear those stories of kids that grew up with both of their parents being musicians or playing an instrument or being singers. They were just immersed in music, music creation, singing – all aspects of music – from inception. I never used to think I had that.
The older I got, and now being a parent, I realized that I WAS brought up around more music than I thought. Music has always been a very big part of my life without me even realizing the level of impact it was having on me! Now that I’m older and more present to my own feelings and emotions, almost every single memory I have from growing up or in life in general, I could tie a song to.
My mom listened to a lot of country music back then, so I have a secret love for artists like The Judds and Shania Twain. Any chance there was to have music on, my mom would. She was always singing along while doing things around the house: cooking, cleaning, hanging out with us kids. Dancing and clapping, trying to get my sister and I into her music, that you could clearly see that she just had a deep love for. Like that scene in a show tune where everyone breaks out in song and dance, if we’d joined her in sync she would have been in heaven!
One of my most memorable moments of my mother from when I was a little girl is her singing me to sleep…
Not only did she share her love of music with my sisters and I, she also shared her love of movies. We would often watch movies during the week if there was time after homework or after the chores were done on the weekends – if we weren’t playing outside of course. When it was affordable, we would go to the theater for a really special treat. Growing up in the late 80’s, early 90’s, I of course watched all the classics like “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory“, and “Alice in Wonderland“… dreaming of going to a magical place just like Charlie or Alice! As I drifted in my imagination watching these classic films and many others of that generation (I became a huge movie buff and have quite the collection now), I just fell in love!
As a little girl, I loved all things that sparked imagination or took me to a magical place (still do) and my mom was in full support of growing such an imagination! So much so that when the end of the day came and we began winding down for bed, I would beg and plead for her to sing me my favorite song of all “Over the Rainbow” from the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz”.
“Again” I would say, half asleep in my bed, just wanting to hear her familiar, soft, soothing voice sing me those sweet words, that so gently sent me off to dreamland.
She always sang it again, always that one more time! She was the best!!
Just like all kids, I grew out of those needy bedtime routines and turned into a difficult pubescent teen who wanted nothing to do with her mother. However, that song never left me, I would always ask her to sing it again if I was sad or needing some ‘mom strength’. She gave me a little music box that played the song when I went away to college so I could always remember her and play it if I needed to hear it.
About 5 years ago I got some news that would change my life forever… I was going to become a mother myself! Fast forward, I am now the proud mommy of my ‘little peanut,’ Oliver who turns a very big 4 years old this coming January. LOL
From the moment I got that news, I grew more and more excited to share music with this new person I was going to meet! I knew immediately that I would sing him “Over the Rainbow”, my all time favorite lullaby… or what I consider to be a lullaby. But what else would I sing him, I asked myself?! I began to dig in my memory bank for all the great ‘slower’, lullaby-like songs I knew and loved as a little girl.
A few of the new mom sites and forums I joined talked a little bit about lullabies / music and why you should sing and play music and some of the science behind how music is good for kids – not that I needed to be told that, I already knew it and believed it. I was even gifted a CD of lullabies to play for my new baby when he arrived. However, I, didn’t love those lullabies. I didn’t have any personal attachment to them so in my head I was thinking “my child wouldn’t either”. I wanted to share with him what my mom had shared with me. Even though as I write this I think to myself, “is that a little crazy?” Either way I went with it.
I started to remember all the songs and all the movies with music in it that I grew up with that I almost abandoned during my young adulthood – all the feel-good songs, and the slower happy songs, the classics that were shared with me (ohh man, the list goes on). I had unknowingly pushed them to the backburner of my music bank and shelved them. Luckily for me they were easily found again!
I needed a refresh on the lyrics for a handful of the songs – who am I kidding, almost all of them. So I started doing my research and looking things up. All the old movie soundtracks, the lyrics, and ohh so many new variations and covers or renditions… I just loved what I was finding, which was everything!! I found all the lyrics I was looking for, original songs and then some!
Most of the songs I was looking for were on Spotify (I already had an account). Just like Gordon says in his article “Discover New Music in the Streaming Era”, a simple search online gave me exactly what I was looking for, not to mention the array of playlists from parents across the globe of songs they sing and play for their children. There were moms and dads sharing stories and videos and their own experiences and the impact music has had or is having on their children. This only solidified what I was trying to create for my son and I.
I wanted to connect with him… I wanted to share this musical piece of myself with this new person.
That’s how it all started – from the very first day he was born, I sang to him. I was committed to him having music in his life and I wanted to create something like what I had with my mom (even if it took me 20+ years to realize it). I did everything I could to make that a norm for us.
Side bar: It took me almost the first 6 months to be fully confident in even singing to him because I thought I sounded horrible, I didn’t remember the songs that well and I was feeling like I had a “not so great voice”. That was hard at first, but slowly I built up that confidence. Nowadays we are just rhyming, singing (with a side of wordplay) all the time, there is so much improv happening – I mean c’mon he’s not even 4 – remembering all lyrics isn’t really what’s important. Don’t doubt yourself, you can do it too!!!
So of course I sang him all my favs and any song that I felt was warm, loving or any of the ones I had fond memories of. I truly wanted Oliver to have a love for “Over the Rainbow” like I did… but that was NOT his favorite. In fact, after he was able to talk, he very quickly asked me not to sing that song. I was heart broken.
Over and over again, night after night, he would ask for was “La La Lu” from the disney classic Lady and the Tramp.
He hadn’t ever even seen the movie. I didn’t get why he liked it so much. I racked my brain asking myself “why does he like this one, it’s not even really a whole song, it’s so short”. I just repeat the “la-la-lu, la-la-lu” and the first verse because the the song’s not long enough to calm him down to sleep without repeating it over and over. I felt like a broken record.
Then I realized that it was stupid for me to feel like that. Duh… how could he have the same attachment to “Over the Rainbow” that I did?! It took me about a month or so to really get it.
It took me 20+ years or so of growing up to understand what I had when I was a little girl and to be thankful for it and truly appreciate it. It will be really fun (in 20 years) to see what songs he looks back on with fondness, regardless of what I think of them.
So once I put my own preferences and expectations down, I could really enjoy how much Oliver enjoyed “La La Lu”.
I will always hold on to my own fond memories and my affinity with “Over the Rainbow” and just let things grow organically with Oliver in hopes that he will have his own bank of musical memories when he gets older.
Now, at almost 4 years old, singing is his favorite part of our bedtime routine (next to bedtime stories) and “La La Lu” is still his number one song request. Music is a very big part of our daily lives and always will be. Oliver even has his very own playlist with all his favorite songs in it (all kid appropriate), and has started making even more requests during bedtime. He is currently transitioning out of his more frequently requested song of “Hit the Road Jack” or “Stay Awake” into holiday songs, but he always goes back to “La La Lu”.
You don’t need a sap story or an excuse like mine or even a real reason at all to bring the joy of music to anyone. The gift of music is a powerful one; I have experienced that first hand and ten fold. Whatever your reason or excuse may be… you don’t need me to tell you.
MUSIC IS LIFE – LOVE LISTEN & ENJOY.
Do you sing lullabies or super slow songs to your children? Do you sing and treat songs like a lullaby that really aren’t considered to be lullabies? Please share – I would love to hear what songs really resonate with you and why.