This Rube Goldberg Machine is the Best Gender Reveal You’ve Seen So Far (WATCH)

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Your fave gender reveal cannot top this! Dad Vlogger Taylor Calmus of the Dude Dad channel and his wife are expecting a second child and they pulled off the gender reveal to top all others.

Calmus, who obviously must have been the president of his high schools’ Odyssey of the Mind club, got his friends to put together a Rube Goldberg Machine. That’s the name for  deliberately complex contraption in which a series of devices that perform simple tasks are linked together to produce a domino effect in which activating one device triggers the next device in the sequence.


Naturally, Calmus and his boys captured the moment on a March 16 video he uploaded on his channel. In it, his infant son Theo kickstarts the chain reaction by knocking a bottle off of his crib, that topples a toy car, which gets the golf ball rolling down towards a staircase. The actions continue until it gets to the basement when the final contraction spews confetti….! It’s fun! We won’t tell….Watch!

 

This Mom’s Maternity Shoot with Her Egg Donor is Hauntingly Beautiful

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Cheryl Whitney-Huebner, Image Studios Group LLC/Instagram dueat42

In a very moving personal essay in Glamour, Texas doctor Dr. Shannon M. Clark talks about her struggles to get pregnant after age 40. Clark is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and works with high-risk pregnancies and knows very well of the challenges of pregnancy women of advance maternal age face.

As Dr. Clark feared, she too faced difficulty. After miscarrying her first pregnancy, and undergoing multiple cycles of failed IVF, Clark and her husband, René Harris, decided to turn to an egg donor to achieve their dream of parenthood.  It worked. Clark gave birth to healthy twins last year, Remy Vaughn and Sydney Renee.

Before that welcoming moment, she decided to have a very unique type of maternity photo shoot. In a set of moving photos, photographer Cheryl Whitney-Huebner of Image Studios Group perfectly captured Dr. Clark when she was just 20 weeks pregnant and barely showed signs of a baby bump.


But what was haunting, yet beautiful about the shoot and the resulting images is that they also featured Clark’s egg donor, Tara. It was Tara’s eggs that Harris fertilized and Dr. Clark carried to term.

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Cheryl Whitney-Huebner, Image Studios Group LLC

In one photo, Tara hands Clark a small wrapped gift box which is a metaphoric representation of motherhood. Both women are wearing long white dresses with lace accents in the sleeve which, while juxtaposed with the rustic background, has its own symbolism. Clark later hands the box to Harris in another shot.

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There’s a lot to unpack but Clark offers some insight in her essay.

About meeting Tara, she writes:

She was so beautiful and gracious and made us feel so at ease. We spent an afternoon taking photos and casually talking about my pregnancy. Again, I studied her face, her hair, her eyes, her walk, her voice, and her mannerisms, just trying to memorize what one day I may see in my babies in case I would never see her again. Little did I know that that would be the only way we were able to formally commemorate my pregnancy.

Whitney-Huebner’s website invites potential clients to “close their eyes and picture” how they want to be photographed and what images they are drawn “to make you feel something.” In this shoot, Clark came up with the idea but Whitney-Huebner brought it to life by selecting the locale, setting and staging it. It definitely gives of an emotional feeling.

“Nothing about my journey to become a mother has been typical. I may not have been able to experience all of the typical things that a pregnant woman experiences, but what I do have are beautiful photos of my barely there belly bump with my husband and the woman who made my dream of becoming a mother a reality,” Clark shares in her piece. “I also have two beautiful babies who make every tear I ever cried worth it. For that, I will forever be thankful.”

I often daydreamed about what it would be like to be a #mom. There were plenty of moments when I thought it just wasn’t going to happen for me. Then these two came along and changed everything. My #life will never be the same. My #heart will never be the same. And for that I will be forever #grateful. My one goal at the end of every day for the rest of my days will be to make these #babies as #happy as they make me ❤#twins #twinsofinstagram #motherhood #family #babygirl #babyboy #siblings #brotherandsister #love #infertility #babiesafter35 #babiesafter40 #ivf #donoregg #thankful #pregnancyafterloss #imtheluckyone #stuff4multiples #worththewait. #twinstyle by @knight_jess of @macandmia. A special thank you to @roberto_ganoza photography for documenting our journey in pictures 😊

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Head over to Glamour to check out Clark’s very moving essay. It’s a good read and worth the time.

h/t Redbook

Photo: Cheryl Whitney-Huebner, Image Studios Group LLC

VIRAL: Beginning of the School Year v End of the Year (VIDEO)

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By now, for parents of school-aged kids, the weight of permission slips, school plays, bake sales, fundraisers, class pictures, field trips is starting to bear down. All of the extra effort put forth at the beginning of the year when fresh with energy and excitement for the start of a new term has waned.  Plenty of moms and dads are counting down the days to Spring and  Summer break.

They also may be slacking on their enthusiasm as displayed in this hilarious viral video from Buzzfeed release last Spring. It is quite timely indeed.


Funny stuff!

10 Ways to Calm a Fussy Baby At Night

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Regardless of how it may feel in the wee hours of the morning to a sleep-deprived parent, your baby does not have an ulterior motive to keep you up all night and make you miserable. It’s more like that she just doesn’t yet know how to handle a situation and is not able to express her frustration in any way other than crying through the night. Here are some tried and true techniques to calm your fussy baby, though you should keep in mind that all babies are different. If something on this list doesn’t work for you, keep trying other things that you think are soothing.

1. Burp! – Sometimes a baby just has a little bit of built up gas that he didn’t get rid of the first time you burped him. So, pick him up and try to get him to burp. If you had to burp and couldn’t, you’d be fussy too!


2.Swaddling – Your baby spent nine months in a confined space and might be missing the simplicity of it. Swaddling your baby can create that same closeness that she is longing for. It is also suggested that you warm up the blanket by throwing it in the dryer for a few minutes to create another soothing effect for your little one.

3. Rock-a-Bye Baby – There is a reason that rocking chairs are still a popular furniture piece in a baby’s room; they work! The back and forth motion of the rocking chair will help calm your baby. A mixture of rocking and singing soft lullabies can put him in a peaceful state of mind. If you don’t have a rocking chair, but you do have a baby swing, put him in there for the same gentle swaying motion.

4. White Noise or Soft Music – If you live in a noisy neighborhood or have pets or other children that may be on the wild side, consider setting up a small fan near the baby’s crib to turn on at night to drown out that extra noise that might distract from a good night’s sleep. Soft music is another way to get baby sleeping well. Be sure the music is almost too low to hear; otherwise, it may be just as distracting and disturbing as the outside noises you’re trying to drown out.

5. Baby Massage – Think back to your most difficult day. Doesn’t the idea of a massage make you squirm in anticipation? Your baby may be under stress that you’re just not aware of, so give him a little baby massage to help soothe his mind and body. Just a simple, light rub down can change the mood from fussy to sleepy.

6. A Breath of Fresh Air – Sometimes taking a walk outside to get a breath of fresh air is all you need to calm down and relax. The same goes for your little bundle of fussy joy. If she’s crying and nothing else is working, step out the door with her in your arms and take a quick walk around the block. The fresh air and the movement of your steps (or the feel of the stroller) could rock baby to sleep again.

7. A Bouncing Baby is a Happy Baby – Whether it’s an exciting game of bouncing or a steady, soothing bounce, your baby will enjoy the movement and change of pace. Walk around the baby’s room while bouncing right along with him and he will forget what he was crying about and enjoy the fun of it.

8. Fish Tanks and Lava Lamps – There is something about a fish tank and a lava lamp that distracts and soothes at the same time. The gracefulness of the fish floating around the tank combined with the gentle sounds of the bubbles floating to the surface has been known to soothe even colicky babies. Lava lamps have the same concept without the noise of the bubbles. The movement of the bubbles inside the lava lamp and the colors within it has a calming effect on adults as well as children.

9. Go for a Drive – Not an escape, mind you. Going for a drive is one way to calm yourself as well as your baby. Most babies are soothed by the noise and movement of the vehicle. So, strap them into their car seats and take off. Chances are you will only have to travel a few blocks before Mr. Fussypants is sound asleep in the backseat.

10. Vacuum – A similar concept to the drive around the block, holding your baby while vacuuming can have the soothing effect you’re striving for. The noise and the vibrations will lull her to sleep, and you’ll get some of your chores for tomorrow done in the process. However, if your baby does not like the noise of the vacuum cleaner while she’s awake in the daytime, it may only upset her more at night.

Good luck!

Are We Doing Autism Awareness All Wrong?

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Yesterday was Light It Up Blue day for Autism Awareness, but today in Forbes, science, health and parenting columnist Emily Willingham writes that we should forget about the gesture. One, she says it supports Autism Speaks which Willingham has claimed in the past stigmatizing and demonizes autistic people.

Second, beyond Willingham’s personal and controversial thoughts on this matter, she has a point about awareness campaigns in general that aim to accomplish the basic minimum: Awareness but nothing more. She writes:


In the case of autism, the exhortation of the day, courtesy of Autism Speaks, will be to “light it up blue,” and powers that be around the globe will cause world-famous landmarks to do just that. Because nothing says, “I really care about autistic people,” like going to the trouble to install blue lights on tall buildings and then flipping them on for a few hours. Presumably, the world will then be led to wonder, “Why is the Leaning Tower of Pisa blue today?” and eagerly turn to the Internet for answers, learning for the first time that a condition called “autism” exists. Awareness achievement unlocked. All done.

But you can do some real work that can make a real difference for autistic people (read here on using “autistic”), something that goes beyond sartorial expression, social media tricks or light bulb purchases….

..you will encounter many a call for “autism awareness.” Have you heard about autism yet? OK. So you’re aware. Step one is low, and you’ve mastered it. Now for the steeper climb. For autistic people, awareness is not the goal at this point–acceptance is.

We can see her point.

A lot of adults without children with Autism do not really understand it. A recent survey of parents reveal that 92% of parents without learning disabilities harbor severe misconceptions. It’s unfortunate given the fact that 20% of Americans have a learning disability, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

The survey of 1,000 parents conducted in March 2017 compared the responses of parents of children with and without difficulties. The study was released by Brain Balance Achievement Centers,a holistic, non-medical, drug-free approach to addressing behavioral, social, or learning difficulties

Asked what they think causes these difficulties, 46% of parents of children with difficulties say nature is the root cause of the difficulties while 24% think their child’s difficulties are hereditary, and another 22% think they arise from developmental delays. Only 7% say they’re caused by bad parenting.

Compare this to what parents of children without difficulties think:45% think that parents are to blame for difficulties and  27% of parents whose children don’t have learning difficulties think they’re caused by a lack of discipline, while 18% think they come from bad parenting. (In reality, learning, social, and behavioral difficulties can have many sources, including neurologically based processing problems.)

Parents who are curious about learning, social, and behavioral difficulties, or who think their child might have one, can take this online assessment:  After years of helping children with behavioral and social challenges, the experts at Brain Balance have developed a cutting-edge (and drug-free) program combining sensory motor stimulation, academic stimulation, and nutrition to correct brain imbalance and improve achievement.

Given that 7% of children with difficulties are bullied at school, it leaves one to wonder if kids are getting those misconceptions from their parents at home.

Correcting wrong perceptions is essential as is moving past basic awareness and more towards acceptance.

Check out the rest of Willingham’s piece HERE! 

Study: Breastfeeding Doesn’t Make Babies Smarter After All, This Does

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A new study casts doubt on whether breastfed-kids are smarter than their formula-fed peers, though it does note there are benefits to breastfeeding babies including reduced hyperactivity.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, finds that while kids between 3 and 5 years old who were breastfed as babies scored higher on cognitive tests than their counterparts, the difference was not that significant.”We weren’t able to find a direct causal link between breastfeeding and children’s cognitive outcomes,” Lisa-Christine Girard, an Irish researcher who authored the study, told NPR.


Socioeconomic factors and the overall behavior and environment of a child contribute to a higher cognitive ability, the study found. When the researchers accounted for those factors, it was harder to link breastfeeding by itself to smarter children, NPR reports.

The researchers did, however, note that the breastfed kids were less hyperactive by age three if they had been breastfed for six months as a baby. But by age five, the impact on hyperactivity appeared to fade.

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These 6 Tips will Make Your Spring Break Road Trip Go Smoother

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During Spring Break, a lot of families take the opportunity of having a week off from school to visit family or travel to various destinations by car. Before going, there are a lot of things things that must be considered, purchased and packed. Juan Carlos Daetz of Maxwarehouse, an online home improvement center that delivers products, offers these 6 Spring Break road trip tips for a safe, organized and stress free tips.

1. Schedule a Service Check on Your Car. Before you take off on a car trip, take your car for a trip to the service station for a tune up. A well-maintained car will be more reliable and safe. Check the oil, power steering fluid, windshield wiper fluid, transmission fluid, and brake fluid. Also check your tire air pressure, have tires aligned and replace if necessary. Have your brakes checked and get brake pads replaced if needed. Lastly, check your lights to make sure all are working—including headlights, high beams, brake lights, turn signals and reverse lights.


2. Pack Emergency Items. In the event of an emergency, make sure your car is well-stocked. Start with a first aid kit. Also, make sure to pack extra water and cell phone chargers. Keep the following stashed in your trunk—jumper cables, flairs, blankets, water, fire extinguisher, mini tire compressor, basic tools, rope/bungee cord, and a flashlight. Your trip will likely go off without a hitch, but it never hurts to be prepared.

3. Plan Your Accommodations in Advance. Always book hotels or make overnight arrangements ahead of time. Spur of the moment travel can be fun, but usually not when traveling as a family. Spring Breaks are a busy time and many hotels book full during this time. Planning ahead also gives you the opportunity to research the area a bit and make sure you are staying in a safe part of town. You can also make sure you get the amenities you’re looking for such as a pool for the kids, gym or continental breakfasts.

4. Bring Healthy Food & Snacks. Pack a small cooler with lots of healthy, easy-to-eat snacks so you’re not at the mercy of a gas station, convenience stores or fast food chains. Depending on where you are in the trip, you can go many miles without running into anything and end up with hungry, cranky kids which can make a long road trip even longer.

5. Road Tripping with Kids. Schedule plenty of restroom breaks along the way. Allow the kids to get out and stretch. Focus on the journey, not just getting to the destination. Make it fun by stopping at points of interest to take pictures and learn about the sites along the way. It doesn’t have to be the Statue of Liberty, kids love seeing World’s Biggest Ball of Yarn or the Corn Palace.Take along travel games, audio books, movies, art supplies, electronics, and tell stories or sing to make the time pass more quickly. The kids can scrapbook or write about the trip when they return home.

6. Childproofing for Your Destination. Whether your destination includes staying at a hotel, friend’s house or with family, bring along electrical outlet covers and travel baby gates to protect your child in a new environment. Be aware that cribs or play yards provided by hotels may not meet current safety standards. If you have any doubt about the safety of the crib or play yard, ask for a replacement or consider other options (for example, put a mattress on the floor).

Good luck parents and have a safe trip!

My New Obsession: WRAPS (10 Min Recipe Inside)

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These days, I am totally in love with wraps! They’re super easy to make and you can combine fresh ingredients, meats, lettuce and other veggies, add some sort of sauce or savory sauce and you’re in business.

I also love the fact that wraps can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I make a scrambled egg wrap for the kids. It’s a nice alternative to cereal and oatmeal. It’s wholesome and more filling; brain food for the day until lunch.


For lunch, my fave is a tuna wrap service with chips and for dinner, you can have a wrap with savory soup. A tortilla wrap or smaller soft taco wrap can be used and they are usually lower in calories compared to traditional bread.

The tuna tortilla wrap (seen above)  is easiest to make! This creamy tuna salad flecked with bell pepper and shredded cheddar cheese is wrapped inside tortillas with lettuce recipe takes just 10 minutes and can feed a family of 4.

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Ingredients:

1 can (12 ox)can Chicken of the Sea® Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup of mayonaise

1 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese

4 flour tortillas (12 inch)

8 large lettuce leaves

Directions:

Mix tuna, celery, mayo, red pepper and cheese.
Spread tortillas evenly with the tuna mixture.
Top each with 2 lettuce leaves; roll up.

Voila! Super Easy. You can dice up the rolls into smaller pieces for small kids. Enjoy!

A Road Map To Help Your Kid Grow To Become A Creative Thinker

 

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A few years ago, a Vice Principal at the Catholic School my children used to attend shared his experience teaching at a summer youth program in an inner city school compared to one in a pretty affluent suburb in the same state.


On the first day, during a short break, the counselors instructed the children that they’d have an hour to rotate on different play stations but something interesting happened then.

In the city program, without prompting, after being told to play, the kids there scattered, grabbed balls and sidewalk chalk, formed teams on their own for playing tag and snatched up limited supply of jump ropes and hoola hoops before the last could be swooped up.

But on the other side of town, with the perfectly manicured lawns, white picket fences and two car garages, where organized recreational league sports, ballet and karate lessons and carpools instead of bus rides  are norm,  no one moved.

The children stood around waiting.

The concept of just scampering off to figure out something to do was not the norm.  After a few minutes of stillness, it occurred to the staff that the kids were waiting for more instructions.  It’s what they’re used to. The counselors divided up the children into groups and assigned them play stations and groups.

I found that unplanned social experiment fascinating, but sad at the same time because my kids would be in the camp with the little robots waiting for instructions.

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Lately, from the reports that come out and just general observation of Zen Y and Z, it appears that we may be losing the war between intellectualism and ‘keep it simple’ because, well, it’s just easier to be told what to do and to follow instructions than to come up with something to do on your own.

Independent thinking isn’t necessarily rewarded in a ‘teach to test’ environment where there is little time for traveling off the curriculum and exploring the fields and getting lost in the weeds.

A lot of us adults aren’t too unsimilar to Generation Zers.  We are content following social trends, our favorite singer or entertainer on social media, and we chime in to comments on popular topics and generally, agree with conventional thought.  We want to be liked, and being agreeable is an easy way to accomplish that goal.

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In high school, it’s easier to go along with the clique and hang on the words of the leader of the pack.

I imagine that it has always been the case for each generation. Succumbing to social pressure to fit in is innate to humans at any stage of life, even.

In schools, children are taught to read, perform mathematic equations, memorize history material in a school book and to cobble paragraphs together based on Wikipedia or online facts and turn in reports.

There is insufficient devotion in the curriculum to teach critical and analytical thinking.  There are electives for that, I guess. So it goes, children who are naturally talented with words and who have a sincere and deep interest in literature, the arts or physical sciences, will likely do okay.

But everyone else will just settle. I wish we didn’t have to settle.

In my home, I have three children: two who are creative, thoughtful, introflective and responsive to others. They can quickly analyze new situations and promptly adjust. They are great with words, creatively write or draw every day.

My other kid is not as motivated  and a bit scattered, and doesn’t really focus as much  and would prefer to not have to do extra thinking or intellectual activity, outside of reading sci fi series, on his days off.

I know I shouldn’t compare my kids but I want this other kid to be better at dissection a problem or challenge presented to him and come up with a creative solution or to plan that challenges conventional thought, wisdom or trends

Critical and independent thinking skills are crucial, not just for term papers in college but for life, in general.

I think it is essential to be able, for example, to judge a political candidate by comparing  his or her campaign rhetoric from their voting pattern, to be able to read between the lines and understand subtext, covert actions and words and figure out if someone is being disingenuous. There are usual social and word clues that give it away if you’re attentive. But there is so much non-real human face to face interactoins these days, that the skill of interpersonal communication is really lost on many among today’s youth.

It’s not too late. I’m convinced!

My kid and all of the children soon will be in charge, running companies and the government and we cannot afford to shrug it off as just something that’s changed.

I wanted to come up with three concrete things that parents can do to encourage and nurture critical thinking in their children and I came up with one and asked my two creative ones to give me an idea on how to cultivate free thought and broader perspective in children.

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Idea 1: Encourage Role Play, and often.  My suggestion. Pretend play stretches a child’s imagination. She is forced to come up with new scenarios, invent characters and dialogue. All of these activities encourage creative thought  which in turns helps a child learn how to anticipate and come up with alternatives. Building blocks for logic and reasoning later on in life.

Tools: My daughter plays with My Little Pony ponies and in fact, there is an enourmous cottage industry of role-playing on YouTube and my daughter watches hours of it if you let her. But pretend play has helped her expand her vocabulary and her horizons.

I don’t want to be gender divisive, but little boys do, in fact, enjoy playing with toy soldiers and imagining battles for their pieces, plastic dinosaurs and stuffed animals. They too should be encouraged to engage in this type of play.

Online Tools: There are a couple of mobile apps out there that involve role play. My daughter likes the Sofia the First: Story Theater app, Toontastic and Telestory apps are excellent. For older teens,  Second Life apps are also cool for creative playing.

Teens: You teen may be too old for playing make believe, but you can encourage him to audition for the school or town play. If her school has an Odyssey of the Mind club, encourage her to join.

All of these activities are excellent brain developing ones.

Idea 2:  “Take something. Take another thing. And make something new.” My daughter’ s suggestion.  To implement this suggestion for the physical world, you can give a child random objects and ask them to either build something  that already exists out of it or make a new invention. An empty toilet paper roll, yarn and a stick can be used to make a fishing poll or a pulley, for example. It’s about challenging them to think creatively.

Online Tools: Here is where video games like Minecraft actually come in handy. That game is about a virtual world. Players acquire tools along the way to help them build virtual worlds.  Similar building and invention games are great.

Teens: For a teenager, take him or her to a comedy Improv show and later at home have Improv with the family.  Play charades. These are all part of creating something out of nothing or something that is given to you unexpectedly that may not fit. Making it fit is the brain teaser.

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 “Start Little and Progress” –My almost 12-year old son’s suggestion. Think of that cliché about Rome not being built in a day. You’ll have to start with developing basic skills before expecting much otherwise, you’ll fail out the gate.  For example, you may ask your child to write a story, but first he has to come up with characters, then have them decide on a backdrop, then add scenes and scenarios. Make him write a first chapter of a story one day. Then have him pick back up and develop the story from there. And so on, until the process of coming up with a story becomes natural.

Online Tools:  Games that have levels and progress help a child develop a mastery of the tasks. Similarly, education games like IXL Math or other learning apps gradually increase the difficulty as they go along.

Teens: A teen can be tasked with reading a novel, then a series in a novel and then another.  Split up an assignment into tiny sections and then make the amount of work for each section gradually increased. That’s an exercise that is also good for those with ADD and other attention and focus deficiency issues. They shouldn’t be given too much stimulus to comprehend at once.

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Hopefully, these tips my children and I came up with will help your journey to help that not-so-creative little thinker in your house. Good luck, parents!

Photos: Picnoi

 

10 Songs Dedicated to Single Moms That Will Make You Cry

img_3717  I am absolutely in love with the new Clean Bandit song featuring Sean Paul and Anne-Marie called “Rockabye“. The song and the accompanying relatively recently released music video for the song are about a single mother who does what she has to raise her child.

The lyrics are poetic:


She works the night, by the water
She’s gonna stress, so far away from her father’s daughter
She just wants a life for her baby
All on her own, no one will come
She’s got to save him (daily struggle)
She tells him “ooh love”
No one’s ever gonna hurt you, love
I’m gonna give you all of my love
Nobody matters like you (stay up there, stay up there)
She tells him “your life ain’t gonna be nothing like my life (straight)
You’re gonna grow and have a good life
I’m gonna do what I’ve got to do” (stay up there, stay up there)
So, rockabye…

Side note: I also think Ann-Marie resembles Khloe Kardashian with that cleft in her chin.

This song ranks up high with other songs that people often dedicate to their mom who raised them solo without much or any help from dad either because of abandonment, divorce or death.

This post features 10 songs including Rockabye that I think represent the sacrifice of strong and supportive single moms who overcome it all  to do right by their kid or children.

Watch: