Our son Rufus slept in different ways as he reached different milestones. The first kind of sleep, when he was a tiny baby, was more a some kind of rapidly cycling consciousness and unconsciousness designed to disrupt parental sleep, this was a phase where we were lulled into a false sense of security. “It’s easy having a baby! Look here we are, out at the pub, and our baby is sleeping next to us at nine-o-clock at night!”. This phase passed and we fairly rapidly realised that Rufus wasn’t going to be the kind of baby who could just fall asleep on the play mat, or in the pushchair at a café, or in our arms at the pub, or in fact anywhere unless we did something to sort this situation out.
Every nap-time, we would go into a long series of rocking, and cuddling, and shushing, and humming, and singing, and singing, and singing, and singing, and… you get the idea. As a first parent this really stretched my memory of childhood songs and rhymes, and as a cyber-citizen I naturally turned to Wikipedia. I wanted to find a rhyme which I could get Rufus to associate with Daddy putting him down for a nap, and which had the least chance of me getting sick of it over time. It turns out most nursery rhymes are really short. Two verses aren’t going to cut it to keep my interest during half an hour or more trying to get the little darling to go to gosh darned bless-ed sleep. London Bridge, though, has twelve verses and takes you through a farcical and thankfully fanciful architectural project to restore a bridge. The petitioners to some anonymous “fair lady” propose various materials varying from the primitive and deficient “wood and clay”, to the frankly quite reasonable “iron and steel”, finally ending with the ridiculously expensive and inadequate “silver and gold” (I think we can see the shadow of large IT projects in there, but I digress). The song demonstrates humanity’s common habit of not properly solving problems “silver and gold will be stolen away” well we’ll just “set a man to watch all night long”, so that’ll be fine then and in case he falls asleep we’ll “give him a pipe to smoke upon”… who knows what’s in the pipe, are drugs ever truly the answer? Anyway, eight months later, when I need to get Rufus to sleep in the middle of the night I’m still singing, humming and shushing out London Bridge. Those twelve verses worked again for me at 5:30am this morning, as he fell asleep in my arms. If you’re searching for something to sing your little tinker to sleep, I can recommend you give it a try. Warning: these thoughts are based on one specific baby, and one specific parent (me), at one specific point in history. Your mileage will most definitely vary.