Up until I was at least 6 or 7, I remember laying down on lazy afternoons for a “energy hug” with my mom and little brother. “Energy hug” is a fancy term for “taking a nap” and a sneaky way of getting small children to lay down without a fight. My little brother and I would cuddle up for a nap with mom on her big bed and she’d sing lullabies from long ago until we fell asleep. Lullabies that were sung by her mother and her mother, passed down from generation to generation.
When I got pregnant with our first child, I was amazed to discover that I couldn’t remember many of those childhood lullabies. Perhaps one, or two. I asked my mom to teach me a couple, but other than that I sang mostly hyms from growing up in the Southern Baptist church, or a few praise and worship songs learned at youth camp or sang at the non-denominational church I was attending.
When our second child was born, I discovered early on that she did better, she went to sleep better and quicker, when I did less. So from almost the beginning, I sang to her very little. I simply gave her a hug and a kiss, tucked her in, and walked away. (Incidentally, she went to sleep that way until she was two, when she was old enough to pick up on her sister’s bad bedtime habits and copy them.)
So along came our third, my little boy, and by this point, I wasn’t really singing lullabies anymore. He went to sleep quick and easy like his older sister and always without a fuss. I kind of wanted to, but the longer I stayed in there, the harder it was to get him to sleep. Once he got a little bigger, though, he did start fighting it. I had the hardest time until my mom discovered that singing stilled him.
And out came the lullabies.
It really didn’t take many songs to calm him down, and I still had to divide my time amongst getting all three of them in bed, so it wasn’t too long before the lullaby routine (for my son became one who really did well with a set routine: first we look at this picture, then we sing this song, then we tuck in bed) shortened to just three songs.
Two from my childhood, and one I stole from Lady and the Tramp (or as my son calls it, “The Lalaloo song.”)
Every night, I would go in. We would look at and discuss the pictures hanging on his walls. Then he’d be ready for the songs. At first I sang in random order. As he got older he started requesting them in the order he wanted them. As he got even older, he got to the point where he’d stop me in the middle of singing, one tiny finger to my mouth, “Shhh – that’s enough, Mommy.”
Most days these days he just wants one song, sometimes two. It’s how I really know when he’s ready to go to sleep, when he requests a song.
I’ll put him in bed. We don’t look at the pictures anymore. Mostly because he’s usually still bouncing or whining when he’s put in bed and he’s not interested in looking at pictures. Most days there’s a time period of asking questions or a last trip to the bathroom (which we let him do because he really DOES need to go and then there are no accidents.) Maybe there’s a little bit of time in his room that he’s trying to sneak around and quietly play with things, or something of that nature. He is, after all, three.
But when he’s ready, he’ll call me….
“Momma… can you sing me a song?”
“Sure, baby, which one do you want?”
He’ll name one and I’ll sing. Sometimes he lets me finish, sometimes he doesn’t. “That’s enough, Momma.” I’ll give him hugs and kisses. I’ll tuck him in. (Or “wrap him up” as he prefers it.) And he’ll settle in and eventually drift off to sleep.
He is getting so big, growing so fast. But at bedtime he’s still my baby boy. I don’t know how long it will last but I’ll take it. We’re not planning anymore, and I’m not looking forward to the day that lullabies are no longer requested. It will be a sad, quiet day.
To prolong that day, and put it off as long as possible, there are always energy hugs.