Jackson’s Song, or the Left-handed Lullaby


Four months ago, I became a grandmother and I was so thrilled that I offered to babysit Jackson Daniel one day a week. The first day, I got up early, drove an hour, and felt a little uneasy, but happy. It all went well until around 2:00; he still hadn’t fallen asleep and now he was crying—well, actually, howling. I tried feeding him, dancing with him, and rocking him, but he still howled. Finally, I decided to try out the Music Together precept of “accept and include,” so I went to the piano and found his crying pitch—the E above middle C. I tried singing with my mouth in the shape of his—making an “aaaaauugh” sound. Holding him in my right arm, I started playing some chords with my left hand and sang “aaugh.” In 30 seconds he was asleep. And he slept for two hours!

The next week when he squirmed and fussed, I tried the “Left-handed Lullaby” again for his afternoon nap, this time without the piano. I just rocked him and sang the “aaugh” tune with some simple words and he fell fast asleep:

Jackson will sleep, Jackson now sleep,
Jackson, Jackson, Oh Jackson go to sleep—
So Mommy can sleep, and Daddy can sleep . . . Jackson, go to sleep.

It was great fun visiting every week, because every week Jackson was different. At three months, he began looking in my direction when I sang, and glimmers of smiles began to break out on his face. When I sang peppy songs to him, his legs would flail up and down! When I stopped singing, his legs dropped down limply. I sang again and his feet beat the air! We had a half-hour singing conversation on “aaugh,” punctuated by happy legs.

Now at four months, Jackson’s legs still kick, and he has a full repertoire of facial expressions. He knits his eyebrows when I change songs—for example, from “Ride-O” to “Betty Martin.” One of his favorites is the “Green and Blue” chant: his eyes almost always brighten on “smells so green and skies so blue,” and he smiles on the “boing, boing” part, especially when I bounce my hand up and down on his body.

Jackson also seems to want to sing with me and talk to me. He imitates the shape of my mouth, he tenses up his body, he takes a big breath in, he screws up his face, and he acts like he’s going to make a sound—but nothing comes out. Then he gathers more energy, moves his mouth and face around, and suddenly—a sound comes out, then a string of sounds, and we have another song conversation! This trial-and-error approach is amazing to observe. Jackson’s motivation is so high, and his development is clearly in process. I can almost see his neural pathways being formed!

I’ve found that music helps me have a truly beautiful day with Jackson. Creating a song-filled day doesn’t take much planning, and it can turn a hectic moment into something special. To see a few more things I do that your baby or grandchild may also enjoy, see “Creating Beautiful Days with Your Baby” in the For Enrolled Families section of our website. And be sure to share your stories and ideas with us, too!