As a child I was always a bit frightened of the song Rockabye Baby. I remember wondering how hard the wind would have to blow before the cradle would fall, and can still recall the mental picture I made of the specific tree where this would happen.
Growing up I learned that most lullabies have a dark side - it’s part of what they’re for. In the oldest one written down on a clay tablet in Iraq 2000 BC the mother sings of night time demons that will come to spank you. A famous Gallic one written during the potato famines warns the child that the mother’s milk will soon dry up and everyone will starve. The Spanish poet Lorca studied them extensively and commented on their “depth of sadness”
It’s like they serve a double purpose: to sooth and to warn, for us nowadays this may sound contradictory, but maybe a warned babe does sleep better - or maybe a mother who has voiced her concerns is better able to overcome them. We often think the best way to sooth children is to keep them from all things bad and make them believe the world is a happy, shiny place. And maybe some of us are fortunate enough to uphold that fiction for our children. But millions of mother’s can’t. I wonder what they sing for their children.