The Lullaby Tradition

I would brush my teeth as quickly as I could and run into bed to await my parents’ entrance.  I always loved being tucked in. It was a tangible distinction between the active part of my day and the inevitable rest to come.  But mostly, I was waiting for the lullaby. My father would perch beside my bed, gently kiss my keppy and then humorously belt out “Light by Fire” by The Doors.  My sister would hum a little song she learned in school that week before awaiting her own lullaby and then my mom would be the encore.  She would choose a melody from her mental songbook. It was the same list of songs that her mom sang to her. “Say Goodbye”,” Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral”, “Three Stars will Shine Tonight”.  She would stroke my hair while she gently sang to me.

I always loved these moments because they connected me to my family’s traditions.  I never met either of my grandmothers but they came alive through the stories and pictures my parents told about them.  While I was certain that my paternal grandmother did not rock my father with the dulcet tones of Jim Morrison, I was certain that my maternal grandmother, the woman I was named after, must have held my mother the same way she was currently holding me.

I loved the tradition.  I loved the simplicity. I loved the legacy.  

My daughter was introduced to the lullabies her first night in the hospital.  I sang through every song in the family songbook while adding some of my own. I gently held her little fingers and felt as if generations of women were wrapping their hands around ours.  

The next morning my sister and brother-in-law came to meet her.   While I stepped out to complete paperwork, I returned to find my brother-in-law gently rocking the baby and singing an Italian aria.  “It is a family favorite,” he said looking up and then quietly continued singing. I realized I had never asked my husband about his families’ songbook, which is how “The Gambler” became the next tune in our repertoire.  

My daughter has since outgrown the days of a lullaby.  Sometimes, I quitely try to pass one by her while she shouts in my face “No, stop singing! No songs Mommy!” Not quite the peaceful moment I imagined as a mother, but my twins still let us get in a few rounds.  They have categorized the lullaby ritual into Mommy Songs and Daddy Songs. As I hear the familiar lyrics of Kenny Rogers, I think about my husband’s mom. She never had a chance to hold any of her grandchildren and sing from her family songbook, but every night I can rock my sons to sleep in the same way she must have rocked my husband.  

I loved the tradition.  I loved the simplicity. I loved the legacy.  

I didn’t however realize there was a piece of the tradition missing.  

If you have ever tried to put small children to bed, let alone toddlers, you would know there is magic to the moments where they finally lie still and allow you to snuggle.  It is the secret of parenthood they don’t tell you – the snuggles will fade sooner than you want them to. With my twins, one will jump in their bed shoutingJELLYBEANS!” while the other is attempting a quiet lullaby and book reading. Meanwhile, their big sister is using their hairbrush as a microphone for her own private concert.  Not quite the soporific environment I was trying to create. Nevertheless, there was one glorious night when the house was calm. I could peacefully read a story, sing a lullaby from Mommy and Daddy’s songbook and enjoy the quiet with my children.  

As I gently placed my son in his crib, I kissed his keppy and whispered, “I love you sweet boy.  Goodnight.” He smiled and said, “I love you big Mommy.”

“I love you big, too”.

I closed the door behind me and realized the magic of that moment.  “I love you big” was something his Aunt Amanda would say. Every phone call from Texas, every holiday visit, every birthday card you could hear the cheerful prosody of her voice, “I LOVE YOU BIG!”  

My husband ended her eulogy celebrating these words.  They embodied who she was. She passionately loved the people in her life and they knew it.  My children knew it too and they will always know it. While she had no children of her own, it will be my family who continues her story.  

That is what is missing.

Every night, we tuck in our three children.  The last thing said before I close the doors of their room is “I love you big”.  Most of the time, it is my children that say it first.

So welcome to “Loving You Big”.  Thank you for joining our family history to share in our adventures.  It should be noted that there have been variations on the name as “Love you big” was taken by a very impressive craft website and “love them big” was, well let’s just say it came with an adult warning.  However, Amanda would have had a great cackle over that.

This blog is more than just my thoughts as a parent.  It is more than just the stories of my family. It is a reminder that we need stories to connect to one other.  We need to remember the stories we carry with us, the stories we exchange, and the stories we retell. It is a reminder of the ones too difficult to hear, too beautiful to capture, and too complex to understand.  These stories celebrate unconditional love.

I love the tradition.  I love the simplicity. I love the legacy.  


  1. As always, beautiful, thoughtful and thought-provoking. So many stories raced through my head as I read this. Thank you for sharing your stories and your heart. The world needs both.


  2. Diane,
    Very heartwarming! I enjoy small traditions when it comes to family. There are always endless things that you can provide when it comes to family even if they don’t even stick. Most of my traditions are just the always saying “I love you” before leaving the house. But as I grew up in a latino household I ended up realizing there were more traditions that not many people say to another’s family. My mother will always give me blessings in spanish before leaving the household, and even now it starts my day off right. Some days my mother feels weak and is sleeping when I leave, but when she’s awake and she notices that I’m getting ready even if I don’t see her face if I hear her voice while passing her room, I exchange my “I love you, Ma” with her “Dios me lo bendiga” (God bless you). Thank you again Diane for this wonderful read.


  3. Tradition is what keeps our ancestors alive! I absolutely loved your passion of keeping a simple but sweet tradition going especially for someone that didn’t have children. I will remember your story now everytime i put my son to bed. I don’t remember my parents ever tucking me in to bed but i remember they alway open the door to our room to make sure we were in bed by a specific time. So now with my 3 year old son i started a new tradition that i hope he continues with his child. Before bed we pray together i tuck him in, always tell him 2 made up bedtime story’s of whichever character or animal he requests, while rubbing his back. He enjoys it he says it helps him have sweet dreams and i enjoy the quality relaxing time we spend together before we rest.


  4. Reading this story was so heart warming. It brought me back to my childhood . My mother would tuck me in bed every night like a “burrito”, she would say , and sing a Spanish lullaby called “The pollito”. It’s about a little chicks and what they say/need from their mother. She would also read this book that had different type of fantasies on each page and I sadly, forgot the name of the book. 18 years later, my mom still knows the song and I have the book , I just have to find it aha. That sad part is you never know when something really stops . By that I mean there was always a night my mom would sing a lullaby to me and or read one page of my favorite book but I never knew when it ended and one day it did . I want to continue this tradition and share it with my kids . I’m so happy I still have my book after all these years.


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