When I started singing my kids bedtime songs, I knew I had a problem. It’s not that I can’t sing. I can’t but, they’re kids and they’re primary objective is to postpone bedtime for as long as possible. Dad’s bad voice doesn’t factor into it.
My problem was I didn’t know any of the words to these lullabies. I remember singing the old standard “Hush little baby” where momma gets various presents to the child and it ends with the promise that “you’ll still be the sweetest little (gender) in town. I couldn’t remember what momma was supposed to buy. I started out pretty good. Mockingbird, check. Diamond ring – not really appropriate for a baby, but whatever. The first gift was a bird so, sure. Ring. Check. Looking glass. I’m all for that gift. Check. Then the next thing I remembered was billy goat and I knew that couldn’t be right. Why on earth would mama buy her child a billy goat as a replacement for a defective bird, ring, and looking glass? I looked it up and, yep, it’s a billy goat. I left that song alone after that.
Then I realized something: The Internet is a thing. I can look up the lyrics to any song I want and sing them. It took an embarrassing few months before I took it to the next obvious level and discovered one of those click-baitish secrets that changes bedtime songs forever. Use karaoke songs from YouTube.
This changed everything. Sure, the overall purpose of lullabies stays the same – the kids try and stay awake while I eek out a few more minutes of together time before they go to bed, but now I’ve got some production value, dang it.
I started out with standard lullabies and kid songs. Did you know the song “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” has something like twenty verses? HO-LE-COW! I can’t express the depths of how little I care to know about that.
So then David Bowie died and I was feeling a tad nostalgic and then I sang “Changes” to my son. It was a revelation to us both. He loved it. He loved the fun little “ch-ch-ch-changes” bit and the little voice undulations. He laughed and sat in almost unsettling attention to what I was doing.
So this is the suggestion: sing your kids your favorite songs using karaoke. Pretty much every song out there has a karaoke version on YouTube. Before discovering this, bedtime was not much fun. It was a battle of wills, a cold war that was heating up more and more each day. Now it’s something we both look forward to. Currently we’re in a Beatles stage. Our song list includes most of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’s B-side, along with “Lady Madonna” and “Within You Without You.” It’s fun. What had turned into a chore is now a game.
Since we started doing this I discovered several benefits aside from a more pleasant bed time:
- The songs they want to hear over and over are songs we sing at bedtime and they are songs I like anyway. Songs I’d probably listen to over and over given my own choice.
- It’s a lot like reading them a book. Sure, it’s no substitute for that, but they follow along with the words. My three year old can recognize all sorts of words that don’t come in standard children’s books. Words like “And in the naked light I saw, ten thousand people maybe more.” Just imagine his classmates’ reactions when he busts that out in kindergarten.
- You get plenty of those cute moments when they’re playing by themselves and you realize they’re singing something like “Uptown Funk” to their toys.
- You get plenty of those moments where you’re in public and strangers tell you that you’re succeeding at being a parent. Not necessary, but fun when it happens. At Disney World I was almost a celebrity on our bus route because my son and I would belt “Changes” at the top of our lungs. Heck, I even got a free lanyard for it.
- You get to know the words to those songs you like but you have to sort of sing-hum because who the heck knows what Elton John is saying.
- In 15 years when they are sick of you and they storm out of the house and hop in their car and scream off into the night, chances are the radio will play one of the songs you used to sing at night and they’ll get all misty-eyed about it and then return home to thank you for all the years of hard work and dedication you put into raising them. Probably.