Lukey’s boat is painted green

When he’s really frothed, I can rely on three songs to calm Lucas down. “You are my Sunshine” is my lullaby standby, and I have sung it to all three boys. It reminds me of my Granda, my grandfather on my mother’s side, and I cringe when I hear it used to huck orange juice. Chet Baker does a much better version of the song than I do, but Lucas seems content to listen to me serenade him endlessly as he fights off sleep.

The second song is Great Big Sea’s “Lukey.” Beloved sang this to him ’round about the time he was a week or two old, and in those first colicky weeks we must have sung it hundreds of times since then. I like this song because it comes with many verses, and Lucas doesn’t seem to mind if you mix and match them so long as you just keep singing. On a good day, humming may be permitted.

I have one failsafe song in my arsenal: I have never seen him so worked up that “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes” doesn’t immediately calm him. (Yes, it’s weird. Don’t judge me, it works!) He will settle and listen as long as you keep singing, and will resume his histrionics with renewed vigour if pause for so much as a quarter-rest worth of time between repeats. I have bellowed it across the back yard to him, trying to yank just a few more weeds from the backyard jungle while he demands attention from his swing; I have blushed rather furiously while singing it to him in a crowded waiting room over and over again; I have danced a little jig while singing it in the grocery store, just to spice things up a bit. Did you know that the song comprises only 10 words, and even with repetitions the whole thing only draws out to 23 words? Do you have any idea how many times you can sing a 23 word song in the average trip to the grocery store, let alone when traversing a highway across a national park? Many, many, many.

Anyone who has had the misfortune to hear me warble in person knows I’m no Amy Winehouse (which, all things considered, may not be such a bad thing), but I have to say there is something sweetly empowering about being able to soothe my baby simply by singing to him. One of my favourite memories of this age will be of Lucas with his face red from bellowing against some indignity, chin trembling and tears held in abeyance. “Well, okay then,” his teary gaze says to me. “I’m righteously ticked off, but as long as you keep singing, I suppose it’ll be alright. But don’t you dare stop. And no, as a matter of fact you may NOT sing any other song. Don’t even think about trying that Old Macdonald had a farm shit with me.”

For the record, it has not escaped me that the song my son best loves me to sing has no actual melody to speak of. And no, I do not accept this as a criticism of my inability to carry a tune.

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

13 thoughts on “Lukey’s boat is painted green”

  1. I remember those days. Our failsafe song was “The wheels on the bus.” I made up all kinds of new verses, like the newspaper on the seat goes flap-flap-flap and the bottle on the floor rolls back and forth. And so on.

  2. Our failsafe is House at Pooh Corner by Kenny Loggins. The sad part is you really do need to be able to carry a tune to pull this one off.
    We even made up little hand gestures to it, not of the head-shoulders- knees and toes variety, but cute little ways to involve the tantrummed (did I just make that up??) child.

  3. Ah, me boys.

    When Miss M was wee I used to sing Four Strong Winds, I’ll Give You a Daisy a Day, La, La Lu (from Lady and the Tramp), and Que Sera to her over and over again. Then I stopped for a good 2 years. A few months back she asked me to sing to her and I told her I would sing the songs that I sang to her when she was just a little, little baby. She sat on my lap entranced, as if caught up in a dim memory. That evening is one of the most memorable and moving of my life. It was too precious to even talk about let alone blog about, although I might have enough distance to do so now.

  4. We’re currently killing Happy Birthday. Happy birthday to Kermit. Happy birthday to Sportacus. Happy birthday to just about any TV character she can think of. When I ask if mummy can have a rendition she says “maybe later. Just wait your turn”. I guess I’m be 39 forever!

  5. For us it’s Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral. I can remember my mother singing this song to me over and over again while giving me butterfly kisses on my cheeks.

    The first time I sang it to her was the first time I remember really feeling like I was a mother. It was the night she was born. I was alone with her, walking in circles in my hospital room with nary a clue as to what the hell I was doing. But I could stop this baby from crying with this sweet lullaby.

    Fast forward to now…..Amelia is demanding in the song department. Every night she gets four. MacNamara’s Band, then You are my Sunshine, then I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover and the big finish is Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral. Every night that I want to cut it down to two songs the image of my mother spilling onto the floor out of my tiny bed saying “ok just three more times” makes me carry on in song.

  6. I have memories of cycling down a busy street, yelling “Uncle Dougie has a farm” to dd screaching in the bike trailer – it put her to sleep every time, go figure. (Our version of that Old MacDonald shit, as you call it ;)).

    DS, on the other hand, loves “My Sammy lies over the ocean” and will sing along “t’me, t’me, t’me”.

    I like Lukey’s boat – great song.

  7. My son used to cry endlessly from the back seat of the car. I soon learned that if I sang to him (it didn’t matter what song) he would calm down. But if I stopped, the wailing would continue. If anyone else tried to sing to him it wouldn’t work. I’ll never forget singing silly kid songs for 30 minutes straight with a friend of mine in the car. I felt so ridiculous!

  8. When Benjamin was going through his screaming phase, my DH sang him everything he could think of, including, oh, I don’t know, some Rolling Stones (you can’t always get what you want) or some such thing.

    He also made up songs:

    My name is Cranky, Cranky Crankerton,
    and I’m a cranky guuuuuyyy.
    Cranky, Cranky Crankerton,
    Such a cranky, cranky guuuuyyyy.

    Sonja, now 10 month, likes songs too, but especially likes the made up ones. I’m forever trying to think of new words to famililar tunes just to keep her happy!

  9. Reid is getting so that will permit me to sing only occasionally. Mockingbird and Hush Little Baby have always been favourites. We sing Old MacDonald together, too. When she was small I could sing it forever, sometimes MacDonald have bees, birds, owls, mice, etc. to go with the usual farm animals and I organized the animals by size on rough days to keep track. Animals with different names for males, females and young were good for long car rides, too.

    As for Head and Shoulders, do you work in the second verse with hands and elbows (in place of knees and toes)? There is also the French version. It’s harder though, since the eyes, ears, mouth and nose are in a different order.

    Good luck and enjoy your songstress status!

  10. this makes me laugh! what distracts my three year old from a full on tantrum is our version of “name that tune” where i hum and she guesses what i’m humming. some days i think everyone on the o.c. transpois playing along with us ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Hi there,

    Just recently found you, and have been lurking till now. My standby song too is “You are my sunshine” but today as I was singing to my toddler, he looked at me put his fingers on my lips, and said “don’t sing, Mama.” Humph. I mean, I know I’m not a very good singer and all, but when the 2 year old tells me to call it quits, I think I should probably listen!

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