One might guess that with a 4-year-old and another baby expected in December, I would, by now, know some lullabies to sing at night. The truth is, not only can I not carry a tune, I can hardly remember even the most basic lyrics and I typically mix up “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with “This Land is Your Land.” My mom sang to me as a child, and she has a beautiful voice, so I would have assumed that those many years of soothing lullabies would be imprinted into my brain, but alas, they are not.
When it’s time to put our son to bed, my husband and I read to him in his bedroom, which is a constant negotiation on the number of books we’ll read. We try and settle on four, and as parents we have to hold fast against our little reader’s desire for one more story, or one more chapter if we’re reading a longer book. My husband and I alternate nights on who does the final goodnight preparations of songs, backrubs, and lights out.
On my nights, most of the time my son cries, “No songs, Mom. No songs.”
I’m not offended, and am actually relieved that I don’t have to reach into the depths of my worn-out brain to piece together songs that would pass for some semblance of a lullaby. I cannot compete with the household troubadour: my husband. I am no match, and it’s better that my son defers to his father for those goodnight songs. He settles for backrubs and snuggles with me before he finally falls asleep.
My husband is the type of person who can actually listen and comprehend every single lyric to every single song, and he memorizes all of them. He’s upped the ante on what qualifies as a bedtime lullaby, bypassing time-honored nursey songs for the more catchy and mature tunes of Bob Dylan, John Prine, and Corb Lund. Our son drifts to sleep not to thoughts of stars or pretty little horses, but ballads about ranching and gambling in Canada, illegal smiles and blowing up your T.V., and Shakespeare in the alley. My husband’s gentle and in-tune voice will carry through the house, and I usually have to stifle a laugh when he sings about “hurtin’ Albertans.” When my son talks about Canada, and specifically the province Alberta, he cites the typically gritty songs of Corb Lund as the facts of life for our neighbors to the north, especially if they own cows.
I’m slightly jealous of my husband’s ability to transform what most parents think of bedtime songs into a lesson in songwriting, while I suffer through the most basic tunes. Luckily my son is vocal enough about my shortcomings in the music department to opt out of this torture. Do I sometimes worry about what exactly he’s learning from Dylan, Lund, and Prine? No, not really. It’s certainly comical, but it’s also a part of those enchanted hours in the evening when we, as a family, delve into bedtime with a good dose of both the written and sung verse.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.