What the lullabies we sing to our children reveal about us

In cultures around the world, the songs that coax kids to sleep are windows into parents’ hopes, fears, and dreams for the future.

THE SONG COMES alive as night draws in. Hear it curl beneath the blanket, slip between the fold of cradling arms, in rooms across the world. To an audience of children, a hidden chorus of caregivers fills the night with song. They’re singing lullabies. …

Sung across cultures, lullabies echo the histories of those who sing them. Khadija’s lullabies became songs about the war. “My children knew about my feelings,” she muses. From their tent in a resettlement camp to their home in an apartment in Şanlıurfa, nightmares have followed Khadija. She dreams of helicopters and of the Syrian army following her, and she wakes up worrying about her children. They huddle around her when they see her in tears. By a mattress on the floor, she gently lays Ahmad down on her legs, rocks him slowly, and sings.

“Ohh aircraft, fly in the sky and do not strike the children in the street. Be tender and kind to these children.”

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