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Should Two Children Get Two Different Lullabies?

Photograph by Twenty20

Two things about my firstborn son: since he was my first, I spent a lot of time pondering his musical education. I created a long songlist that I played for him during our maternity leave in the hopes of instilling good taste in him. Also, he was a fussier baby than my second, meaning that I spent a lot of time rocking him and singing to him. I sang to him every single song I could possibly recall, from the Bears fight song to the Star Spangled Banner to campfire songs to all the Beatles songs I knew.

Eventually as we got into a bedtime routine, one song stood out from the rest and became his song: "Til There Was You," which is originally from "The Music Man", but I am more familiar with it thanks to the Beatles.

It's a wonderful song to sing to a child because, lyrically, it makes sense—having a child does bring a new type of love into your life that you can't imagine otherwise. But more importantly, it's short and easy to remember and easily truncated if I'm tired. Happily, Paul has welcomed the song into his life, requesting "Bells on a Hill" at bedtime several times a week.

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When I was pregnant with my second, I intended to find a new, separate song for this new, separate child. It felt like it would be cheating, or it would take something away from Paul, if I re-used his song on the new guy. I had always imagined that Paul and I would dance to "Til There Was You" at his wedding. Clearly I'd need a new song for James for his nuptials, which were practically right around the corner.

At first I tried letting Paul pick the song. As a Beatles fan I played "Here Comes the Sun" for him, which he seemed to like, so I asked whether he thought that would be a good song for the baby. He agreed, but then I realized that a lot of "Here Comes the Sun" is instrumental ("Here comes the sun, doo doo doo doo") and, it being a George Harrison song, it really doesn't work without the guitar.

I wasn't worried though. I knew early on that we'd name our new son James, so we had a great, if obvious backup: James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James." Like "Til There Was You," lyrically it made sense and it's not a terribly long song.

But here's the thing. Maybe because I didn't grow up with the song, or maybe just because having two children left me with two brain cells, I couldn't for the life of me memorize all the words to "Sweet Baby James." I downloaded the song and sang along to it as much as I could but on my own, I just couldn't get anywhere past "There is a young cowboy." I read somewhere that the song is noteworthy due to its "intricate rhyming pattern," which I will take as an excuse for not being able to remember a three-minute song.

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Okay, the truth is that I do have one song that I sing primarily to James. I started singing it to him on maternity leave after watching a rerun of "RuPaul's Drag Race" and since then, I swear to God, his tiny face lights up whenever I sing it. It's the surefire way I get him to smile when he's in a pouty mood. It's sort of embarrassing whenever I bust it out in public, but it never fails. The only problem is that it's too fun to be a nighttime song. But on the other hand, while it might raise a lot of eyebrows at his wedding, I know we'll have lots of fun dancing to it:

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