Friday, July 25, 2008

Bye-low My Baby

I always have mixed feelings come "bedtime" every night. On one hand, there is no denying the urge to get Finn into bed as expediently as possible. There's always a mountain of chores to get done to prep for the next day. The treadmill buzzes in my ear like a pesky mosquito, saying "You slacker, I'm not even paid off yet." And there is the enticing prospect of some down time - planting my ass on the couch, maybe having a drink, holding an actual conversation with M., and watching a little TV (yay for the return of some of my fav shows, like Psych and Project Runway, bringing an end to the desert-like programming conditions that have been so disheartening of late). On a really good night, I can accomplish all of these things (aided greatly by M.'s assistance re: the chores).

Then there is "the other hand." The part where I just love having that warm little body, constantly in motion at all other times of the day, peacefully lounging on my lap in what could almost be called (gasp!) a cuddle. With Blankey draped over a shoulder and pacifier in mouth, Finn pays rapt attention to the books we read. If he had his way, I would read book after book after book, delaying the moment he's put in the crib and, in his eyes, leaving to start the wildly fun bike/truck/ball/balloon/insert toy-obsession-of-the-moment party we MUST be having while he sleeps.

My favorite part of the bedtime ritual comes after the book reading is (finally) done. After some obligatory whining ("mo boo, mo boo, Mommy!" which means "more book" for those of you that don't speak toddler yet), I turn Finn around to face me, reposition his Blankey just so, and let him literally collapse onto my shoulder. While he's hanging out on my shoulder like a (suddenly quiet and sleepy) sack of potatoes, we make our way to the light switch so that Finn can do the honors with one little finger, throwing the room into a comfortable dimness lit by the waning sun and his night light. Then we make our way back to the comfy Ikea chair that subs as a rocker, and sing the Bye-low song.

The Bye-low song is something the my great grandmother, Nana D., used to sing to my sisters and I. There are dim, warm memories in the back of my head of Nana D. sitting with us in the bedroom of our Cape Cod summer rental, singing us into bed after a day of sunshine and salty waves. I sing it now to Finn, knowing that I have very likely bastardized the tune to an unrecognizable form. The song changes with each rendition, because we sing about what happened that day in 2-line increments that go something like, "Bye-low my baby, bye-low my ba-aby; at school you played with play-dough and sang the ABC's." Then it's on to another verse. Typically nothing rhymes, and given that I am making this up on the spot, often there are inappropriate numbers of syllables in each verse as I try to cram a thought or activity in. For example, "Bye-low my baby, Bye-low my ba-aby; today we went to the mall where Mommy bought a really nice shirt and you played in the kiddie playland area while Daddy drank a latte." Not my finest singing moments, for sure. But Finn LOVES it, and happily listens to me while we rock together.

We always end with a couple of stanzas about how it's time to go to bed, the day is at an end, Mommy and Daddy love you very much, etc, etc. Then we sit for few more minutes before making the transfer to the crib. Lately, Finn has clamored for "Mo, mo" when we are done (reasoning he can prolong his bedtime, I'm sure). I tell him that if he wants more, HE needs to sing to ME. And over the past week, he has! His high little voice sings "Bye, baaaaby, bye baaaby" over and over again, with the occasional "Moooommmmmy" thrown in too. He and I can't help giggling together, and then it's ME wanting to prolong his bedtime. These are the moments that help me forget the way he cried and clamored for attention while I attempted to throw something together for dinner, or the THREE cups of water he spilled on the kitchen floor. They are the moments that make me realize having a child was the best thing I ever did.


  1. How sweet. I was hoping you'd pass on the words but seems like you forgot them. :)

  2. That is such a sweet post! I actually wrote about the Bye Low song for my college personal essay. I totally got Uncle T to cry about it (not that that's hard). Make sure Mimi has a link to your post, I'm sure she would love to read it!

  3. Tennessee Williams used "Bye low" lyrics at the romantic end of his 1960 play Period of Adjustment. The young bride sings it softly to her husband after some tense scenes about their inability to connect...sexually and other ways. They head toward a bed together as she softly sings the "Bye low" song to him. I'm directing a production of the play and found this post while looking for the source. Lovely and helpful.