I wonder if our kids remember the lullabies we sang to them when they were small, cute, warm and smelled of Johnson’s talc?
Did those songs make them quiet and relaxed and ready for sleep? Or was it us, as mums who were getting the most out of it? Was it just simply another expression of mother lurve?
My own memories are not so much of lullabies but of trapping mater into a tradition which probably hardened her arteries considerably. I had not one lullabye but two… and they had to be sung in order. And then when the thin lady stopped singing and left with several “Night nights” and I’d heard her reach the bottom of the stairs… I’d call out “Can I have a handkerchief please?”
Every night, the bedtime routine was long and if I could possibly protract it, I did. I remember it with fondness. I love little intimate traditions. I recognised and enjoyed the rasp of mum’s gritted teeth as she sang my songs at triple speed. The ability to set up that kind of irritation glues you to the other person as surely as Unibond.
Mater on the other hand, remembers me as an annoying demanding little tyke who would never settle at bedtime without a series of rites but she had the charm to at least acknowledged that by giving in to my demands, it was all her fault and she actually did create a rod for her own back.
The routine was bathroom, then bed with a story or more if I could swing it. I always recognised when she skipped a couple of paragraphs, which also annoyed her.
Then she’d sing “Down by the Station Early in the Morning” followed by “Mud Mud Glorious Mud.” I have no idea whatsoever why Flanders and Swann took such a seminal role in my early childhood but I loved it, especially the “Follow me follow… down to the hollow… and there we shall wallow… in glorious mud.” I mean, who wouldn’t find that a tremendously exciting proposition? Oh…. really? Just me then.
Discussing it some years later, she revealed the full extent of the mental damage.
“Sometimes I’d have to go back upstairs to you seven times! You were a little sod for going to bed. There was always something else… water… handkerchief… too light… too dark, too hot, too cold…. It’s a wonder I didn’t murder you in your bed.”
So it was against this poignant, cosy background that I set up whole new rituals with my own kids to cement their security, happiness and hone their manipulative skills.
The first mistake was allowing that exquisite chubby little baby fist that extended through the bars of the cot to clutch my finger. It seemed sooo sweet… until I realised this was a form of Vulcan Death Grip imposed by helpless infant. There was NO getting away….not without child waking up and wailing again.
So I sang a little lullaby instead. ‘Goodnight’ by the Beatles seemed touching and appropriate and did the trick. But then it was a matter of escaping a room with creaky floors, so it was Two Giant Steps to the window, taking care to follow the line of the hidden joists… and then I’d flatten myself spreadeagled against the wall like spiderman and edge around the perimeter of the room, tippy-toeing tight up against the skirting board, achieving a silent, professionally-covert exit.
No2 son was dead easy in comparison but loved stories and like me, recognised immediately when a Short Cut had been made. Actually, it was total pleasure for us both because I liked reading them, especially Roald Dahl rhymes and books. Dahl wrote with a rhythm and such humour that it’s still a treat to read and to hear.
My own father was never a part of bedtime routines. Capt Sensible had been a deprived child in Africa with only monkeys and chameleons to play with and no memories of bedtime routines. Consequently, he totally over-compensated with our own boys and upped the ante at bedtime.
He created Oscar the Pig, a renegade porker who was always escaping and having adventures. He would always end up running into the distance (strong Pigling Bland influence) as the sun went down over the horizon – cue gradual turning down of dimmer switch. It was, I have to admit, an absolute blinder of a bedtime routine.. but a really hard act to follow.
If Capt Sensible wasn’t around, I’d be floundering with my plot lines varying from bland (pigling) to psychotically damaging with Oscar down the shops, Oscar being chased by a butcher with a chainsaw, Oscar at the abbatoir…
“What’s an abbatoir?”
“Its a place where… oh never mind, forget that. Oscar’s being chased by the Billy Goats Gruff…they are all racing after him at top speed..with their sharp horns. Oscar is worried about his wobbly porky bottom!”
“But thats a *different* story. And the Billy Goats Gruff were nice…!”
“Yes they started off nice but they were negatively influenced by the bad troll under the bridge and went postal…. “
You get my drift. It was difficult. I just didn’t hit the mark as an off-the-cuff storyteller. I was much better with lullabies, although it’s a moot point whether the kids remember anything about my nocturnal warblings.
In the meantime, I’m going to revisit Mud Mud Glorious Mud. I might even get Ted from the bottom of the wardrobe. I know he wouldn’t want to miss it.
It’s ok. I joined in too. You have to. It’s the law.
Any other favourite lullabies out there? Do post if there are. 🙂