First Draft Father: So You Think You Can Sing

I’m not quite sure when I started singing to Ethan on a regular basis. Perhaps it was the time I saw my wife Julie sing a high-pitched silly song to him and watched his face light up with a smile.

Now I sing for him all of the time. When I’m changing him. When I’m dressing him. When I’m bathing him.

When we knew that we were going to have a baby, I thought it would be great to sing for him. Then my mind came up completely blank with appropriate songs.

I used to lead worship in church. I’m a creative guy. I can do this… right?


With my mind empty and nothing planned, I just look Ethan in the eyes and start singing whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I make up my own lyrics to popular songs. Sometimes I make up lyrics to songs that aren’t so popular, with the chicken dance tune coming in the most handy for lyric creation on the fly.

Other times I’m rocking him to sleep, singing a little song I made up for him around the time he was born.

When he won’t fall asleep and wiggles in my arms in the still of the night, I sing one of the few hymns I’ve held onto. The last verse of Come Thou Fount is particularly moving for me.

Don’t we all feel that pull to wander, to put ourselves first, and to forget that we have a God who loves us dearly and who longs to hold us close?

I snuggle Ethan close to me, wrapping him around me so he can’t plank.

Prone to plank, Ethan, I feel it…

When I’m caught up in a made up song, a Johnny Cash chorus “You’re gonna cry, cry, cry,” or one of the hymns I lean on for my faith in a loving God, I remember that anxious father who didn’t think he’d have anything to sing. How we underestimate ourselves.

And that underestimating makes so much sense to me as a writer, as a creative, as a father. I’m terrible at math to begin with. But then toss in a dose of self-doubt and insecurity, and you’ll spend your evenings wandering dark hallways bored and lonely with frustration bristling off your lips.

Start singing. That’s the only rule.

Whether your faith is cold and struggling or you can’t figure out what the next sentence will be for your blog post.

You can get there, but you need to start singing.

Doubt only has power so long as you’re silent and immobile.

Faith is that leap into the dark uncertainty where we start singing not because we believe we can make a beautiful song when we start but that something beautiful will eventually come if we leap in.

Sing to God, and he just may show up.

Sing while you hammer out that draft and you might write a few sentences that strike you silent.

Sing to your child, and he may drift off to sleep with a faint smile that creeps out behind his gently pulsing pacifier.

8 thoughts on “First Draft Father: So You Think You Can Sing

  1. Marilyn

    Yes yes! Singing opens a lot of doors.
    When I stopped writing and began to think I’d never write again, I went out and started working as a nanny. I am singing real and made-up songs the day long. Of course, I no sooner got out and around children and started playing and singing than I started writing again. The creative juices were tapped by all the play and singing I think!

    I love this post. Could almost see your Ethan’s face light up!

  2. from two to one

    Ed, this is so sweet and I can see your father heart shine through these words. My own father, who has been in church choirs or a capella groups his entire life, sang to us ALL. THE. TIME. growing up. Even at birthday sleepovers, he would wake us up at 8am (which at 12-yrs-old is like the crack of dawn), singing waaaakee uuupp, waaakee upp, over and over. It was annoying then, but not that my siblings and I are grown, we catch ourselves singing along too!

  3. Kathleen Quiring | Becoming Peculiar

    I do the same thing! I can’t believe some of the ridiculous words that have spontaneously come out of my mouth in a sing-songy voice in order to soothe or entertain my daughter (far too many of them have involved the word “pee-pee”). I never would have foreseen that — I’ve always been terribly self-conscious about my singing voice. Parenting gets you doing all kinds of surprising things, though, I find.

    I’ve been surprised to hear hymns come from my lungs, too.

    I’m still trying to figure out what all this singing has unleashed in me . . .

  4. Annie Barnett

    I couldn’t carry a tune to save my life, but my kids have drawn the singing right out of me. I love the way you wove this in with the writing process and with faith. Beautiful, Ed.

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  6. sarah louise

    I love that. Just start singing. It applies to so many things. Just start praying. Just start writing. Just look in the fridge and see what you have to eat.

    Thank you, Ed, for your writing.


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