What the lullabies we sing to our children reveal about us

In cultures around the world, the songs that coax kids to sleep are windows into parents’ hopes, fears, and dreams for the future.

MONGOLIA

Altanzul Sukhchuluun and her daughter, Khulan, snuggle at bedtime in Ulaanbaatar. Altanzul is a nurse at a family clinic in her district, where she tends to women and children living in communities with the most polluted air in the country.
The Tim Hetherington Trust provided support for the photographs in this story .

The song comes alive as night draws in. Hear it curl beneath the blanket, slip between the fold of cradling arms, in rooms across the world. To an audience of children, a hidden chorus of caregivers fills the night with song. They’re singing lullabies.

For Khadija al Mohammad, nighttime has always been the time for silence, comfort, and quieting the noises of the day. When her eldest son, Muhammed, was born 19 years ago, a decade before the Syrian civil war, she sang sweet lullabies—songs passed down by her mother and grandmother, songs of heritage and place.

As the conflict escalated, her family left their home in Kafr Nubl in 2013 and made a reluctant crossing to Turkey, where her youngest child, Ahmad, three, was born.

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