When Hank was tiny, I would sing to him every night before bed. I would say, “What do you want me to sing?” and he would say, “Train song!” So I would sing Chattanooga Choo Choo, then kiss him goodnight.

After about two years of this, he wanted a new song, but would reject each suggestion one by one until we hit my suggestion limit. Then he would suggest water. Then he would suggest a snack. Then he would suggest that he was not tired. So I took to singing the ABCs, a kiss, and turning the light out. Eventually we just stopped singing before bed to eliminate another stall hurdle.

I know singing is a good way to get new words into kids’ brains. It helps get synapses firing on math and, well, music. I feel cruddy that Hank only knows a handful of the little-kid songs I knew growing up. I also sometimes feel cruddy that I didn’t enroll him in violin lessons when he was like two, but whatever.

I made a him a bedtime sing along book, because it seemed less labor intensive than acquiring a cello.

I wrote out verses to a few of his favorites. We sing this most mornings, and I was going to add the rest of the lyrics, but have you read them? Geeze. It’s like “don’t leave me or you’ll regret it.” Yikes, You Are My Sunshine. Give me some space.

I decided we’d stick with the one sweetie verse.

I tried to put in a few with motions that go along, because they help kids remember and orient themselves in space. Hopefully when he grows up, he won’t constantly knock his limbs into things like me.

And because I know I need to stack the deck in my favor when introducing a new project:

I put in one flat-out capitulation.

Know your audience.

This story is part of the Too Small to Fail initiative, sponsored by Next Generation and the Clinton Foundation. They’re working to close the Word Gap, and Go Mighty is on board. More info here.