I sent my daughter to her first day at school today. As I hugged her good-bye, she whispered into my ear, "I love you always, Mama." Then, the little girl who I created four years ago turned and followed the crowd of students into the next room. I went to my car and sat in the parking lot, sobbing, for nearly half an hour. When I finally started my car, the radio hurled me back nearly 20 years -- playing Rod Stewart's "Have I Told You Lately," a song that my mother had dedicated to me on the radio when I was 6 years old. The tears came all over again.
I am a sucker for beautiful songs about parents and parenting. To me, there are few moments in life more emotional than the day-to-day experience of parenting. And, while I can relate to music that captures the beauty of romantic love, nothing hits me more strongly than a good song about the experience of motherhood. Here are a few of my favorite sappy songs about parenthood.
1. In My Daughter's Eyes (Martina McBride)
One of many Martina McBride songs about parenthood, this touching tune reflects on the inspiration, hope, and wonder that mothers find through our children. It is a perfect example of a song that focuses on the benefits, rather than the struggles, associated with motherhood.
2. Come to Me (Celine Dion)
Like McBride, Celine Dion is renowned for her touching songs about parenthood. This 2004 melody captures the basic essence of a mother's unconditional love, urging a child to come home any time she needs help or a shoulder to cry on. Listen to this one if you're sending your child off to her her first day of school, college, or her wedding. You'll both likely burst into tears.
3. Forever Young (Rod Stewart)
This song gives me chills every time I hear it. A re-write of a Bob Dylan song of the same title, this beautiful classic was first released in 1988. In his classically gravely but melodic voice, Stewart sings, "Whatever road you choose, I'm right behind you -- win or lose." This single line, to me, sums up the entire essence of parenthood, making this song one of my favorites.
4. Teach Your Children (Crosby Stills Nash and Young One)
A classic folk song, "Teach Your Children" is one of the most touching songs about parents and children. It reflects on not only the lessons that parents teach their kids, but the lessons that children teach their parents. It's a great song to listen to when you need a reminder about the joys of parenting and the importance of doing things right.
5. Butterfly Kisses (Bob Carlisle)
Bring out the box of tissues for this one -- it's a real tearjerker. In "Butterfly Kisses," Bob Carlisle reflects on a daughter's evolution from little-girl to bride. In the chorus, he reflects, "For all I've done wrong, I must have done something right, to deserve a hug every morning and butterfly kisses at night."
6. Daughters (John Mayer)
I find this song sexist and somewhat disturbing, but I am clearly in the minority. Mayer's 2003 song about parenting was widely acclaimed and won multiple awards. The anthem urges fathers and mothers to treat their daughters well, noting that the parents' actions sculpt their daughters' future relationships.
7. I Hope You Dance(Lee Ann Womack)
This breathtakingly beautiful song is a mother's message to her child -- or, as some listeners might hear it, a prayer for her child. It lists the hopes and dreams that she has as a mother, from "I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean," to "Loving might be a mistake, but it's worth making."
8. Blessed (Elton John)
This amazing song about parenting comes from Elton John, who sings it as a father making promises to his future child. He speculates many things about what his child may look like, what kind of person the baby may be, and when the child may come along. However, he expresses certainty about one thing: the baby will be blessed.
9. Child of Mine (Carole King)
An enchanting ode from a mother to her child, "Child of Mine" describes a child who is growing older and is becoming independent and separate from her parents. Through these changes, King reflects, "I'm so glad you are a child of mine." This beautiful melody is perfect for moms whose children are leaving the nest.
10. Isn't She Lovely (Stevie Wonder)
I remember hearing this when my daughter was one month old. I peered into those glassy, newborn eyes, wondering what kinds of thoughts were blooming inside her mind. Over the radio, Stevie Wonder asked me, "Isn't she lovely, made from love?" And she certainly was, and is. New parents of little girls should listen to this song daily as a reminder of the joys of parenthood. Those early moments pass by far too quickly.
Whether you're looking for a song to play at your child's wedding or graduation party-- or whether you are, like me, a masochist who enjoys listening to tear-jerking songs, these melodies are beautiful odes to the joys, struggles and challenges of parenthood.