The Texture Of Things

a song in my heart, but not in my mouth

April 17th, 2007

or something like that.

It used to be that the tot required music at every waking moment, and sometimes the non-waking ones too. Where baby books suggest to parents to narrate every blessed moment of the day so that infants are immersed in real language with piles of vocabulary, I could not do it. When I am alone, I am silent.* With an infant in tow, I never felt I had a conversation partner, so talking felt contrived and arbitrary. Plus, I think I had some PPD, so I wasn’t really in the mood.

And then the silence broke me, or something, and I started to sing to the tot. I sang everything. I mean, when you don’t feel any of your own words inside you, it’s exhausting to think of what to say. Song lyrics are set. Even if you’re not feelin’ them, you can still sing ’em. (And anyone who’s had to sing a children’s song twice in a row or more knows I am not wrong here.) And because I felt guilty to not be talking all the time, I felt compelled to sing something.

HG and I joked early on that music soothed our savage beast because music was like a balm, the directions for which went something like this:
Apply song to fussy baby,
Keep singing,
Wait for it,
Waaaiitt foorrr iiiitttt,

Repeat as necessary.

So it’s no wonder that my daughter can recognize the theme song to Spiderman (all verses and bridge) and Powerpuff Girls and that she knows about a billion made up songs. I’m not exaggerating. We’ve been singing like mad here, for pete’s sake. Singing = status quo.

It wasn’t until last winter, between Thanksgiving and Christmas I think, that I realized music’s total domination in our life. I was driving her to day care, the stereo was on (tot music only, please, or else face her wrath), but I was not singing. I was tired. I was overworked. I had a sore throat. Whatever. Can’t a mama get a break?

Then, from the back seat I heard a small voice ask in the break between songs, “Mama, you okay?”

Immediately I was on the defense. “Of course, honey! Why would you…?” Oh. I’m not singing. She is processing the meaning of the silence the only way she knows how. Wow.

I started singing.

Fast forward to after the new year and you will find a different child, however. One who shouts “no, no, no. nonononono NO NO SINGING!” when HG or I begin to sing along to a song. Any song. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?**

All right. She’s 2.5 now, maybe it’s a control thing, no it’s totally a control thing, OMG what’s with the control thing?!

HG and I’ve been dealing with it the only ways we know how. He tells her, “No. I’ll sing if I want.” He then sings on. I say to her, “But child, I want to sing. Why can’t I sing?” To which she responds by contorting her face into some melty wax demon mask and shouting more loudly, “NO NO SINGING!” At this point, I mutter some obscenity under my breath and pout. I totally wanted to sing to that – wait, no I didn’t. Hey, this is the break I was asking for. OMG, amy, take it and shut up.

It is frustrating, though. I take the bait on it almost every time. Then I end up trying to rationalize what developmental need the silence is serving. Aside from making parents crazy.

I got an answer, a real one, at Easter.

My mom and I took the tot to Easter service, and I braced myself for the worst because that’s what you get when you take a child to Church once or twice a year. As such, I was ready when she started up during the opening hymn.

She said, “No Singing. NO NO NO!”

I wanted to say, “Oh my god, quit your bitching, we all have to sing this, it says so RIGHT THERE on the bulletin!” But I didn’t. Instead, I said, “Shhhh sweetheart. No shouting in Church. We use little voices.”

When she started to grab the pages, I lost my place in the song so my mom leaned over in front of the tot and pointed to where we were in her hymnal. It was at that moment I said the most important thing ever: “It’s okay. We don’t have to know the words to sing. We can just sing ‘la la la la’ when we don’t know.”

And with that, the tot stopped complaining. Not once since then has she commanded my silence during a song. And several times since then, HG and I have both heard her singing “la la la la” and other made up words to songs, even when she does know the words.

So here’s the part where I talk about what I’ve learned from all this, and I’d like to wax poetic over it, but my foot’s asleep and I have to pee, so here’s the short version:
*Why do I think everything is about control?
*I’m totally raising a perfectionist, and it’s not my solely fault (honey bear HG, I’m looking at you here)
*Although it looks like I could see a lesson in here that I should be going to Church more often, that’s just not true. I go just as often as I like. I can hardly wait to see what epiphany and child-rearing miracle happens at Christmas.

*The only notable exception is when I am driving. If I am driving with passengers, I will talk or be quiet. If I am alone, I sing at the top of my lungs every minute of the way. It keeps me awake, what can I say?



  1. H.G. says

    *Why do I think everything is about control?
    …because it *is*, and it’s okay… that’s life…

    *I’m totally raising a perfectionist, and it’s not my solely fault (honey bear HG, I’m looking at you here)
    …you’re right, I know it, and accept it. In fact, I think it’s a good thing… but then, it’s like asking a person who likes carrots if carrots are good…

    *The only notable exception is when I am driving. If I am driving with passengers, I will talk or be quiet. If I am alone, I sing at the top of my lungs every minute of the way. It keeps me awake, what can I say?
    …I never heard you sing a note until that child came along. I begged you for years to sing along, harmonize, or even just do the little backups in songs. Not a note. Then along came the Tot. Now you sing like a songbird, and it is beautiful. I’m okay with it I guess, it’s just interesting to me that it took her to give you the confidence to let the inner songbird out…. and the Tot sings back with the confidence that neither of us had at her age…

    April 17th, 2007 | #

  2. admin says

    Having her has been pretty amazing in a lot of ways, huh?

    April 17th, 2007 | #

  3. KLee says

    I totally feel you. Offspring did the SAME THING when she was small. We had to sing every blasted waking moment, and then there came they day when she *insisted* that we not sing at all. I think her reason behind it was not that she didn’t know the words but that she wanted to hear her voice ONLY singing. She had never really been able to hear her voice alone with accompanying music, and she really wanted to hear how her voice meshed with the music.

    I sing. A lot. I love to sing, and I had a hard time NOT singing when she demanded that I not sing. I just got to where, like HG, I would tell her — no, I like this song, and I will sing along with it.

    Ah, the things we do for the love of our kids….:)

    April 18th, 2007 | #

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