You are my Sunshine


Typography and hand lettering has become wildly popular. There are a million fonts and half as many very cool women making a very good living writing “Bride” on mason jars and “Let’s be Adventurers” on Cold War era atlases.

In case you have never heard of Pinterest, shun Etsy, or live in an isolated yurt, here are some drool-worthy examples just to get you up to speed:

As nursery decor, typographical prints of darling quotes has become an unimpeachably cute trend. It is rare that I walk into a child’s bedroom these days, or see a nursery inspiration board, that there isn’t a brilliant piece of calligraphy somehow, somewhere. I am a HUGE fan of this movement.



Of all the nursery decor, one stands above the rest. One quote seems to reign supreme: the lyrics to “You are my Sunshine” – made popular by Johnny Cash.

I take issue with this – or at least I think its bizarre.

Here is the thing.

Telling someone, outside the trappings of beautiful typography and sentimental decor, that they are your sunshine, your only sunshine, is the kind of sad confessional I would expect someone to say in the confidential confines of my office. To me, it is not the cry of a happy mother, but the weepy mumblings of a depressed person, and yet it is getting spray painted on walls and cribs and onesies. How funny!

“You see Dr. Penry *sniff* the reason I am here today *sniff sniff* is because my child is *sniff* my only sunshine.” — Seriously.

And further, between me, you, and the psychologist in the room – your children really aren’t built to handle the pressure of being your only sunshine.  Although that song is sweet and I sing it to my children almost every night (with a few minor changes), the line “my only sunshine” is a little kooky. Why are we writing it on their crib pillows?

“Oh, its just a sweet sentiment”

True. But your children are literal and grounded in the realities of the actual words that leave your actual mouth. They are playful and wildly complex emotional little creatures. A baby or a toddler though, doesn’t understand the whimsies of sentiment.  They want to be your sunshine, desperately, and you are right to tell them that they are a special Grace in your life. But they need to know that when push comes to shove, if they are angry or feel like being disruptive, their mother has the fortitude and social resources to contain and survive whatever they are feeling. They do not need any kind of subconscious pause that approximates, “I am angry, I need to express myself, but I am my mother’s only source of happiness, if I rebel, she will be destroyed.”