Sunday, November 14, 2010

sing to me my angel of music

Many baby books tell you that the best way to help baby* develop verbally is to chatter to him about what you are doing. For example, a typical conversation with Genghis may be something like:

"Okay, now I'm going to set you down on your play mat."
"Whoa! Kid, it's just a play mat. You're kind of freaking out about this."
"It's okay. You're okay. Show me how you kick it to make music. Yeah, you can do it."
"Okay, we've moved into full freak out mode now. It's okay. It's okay. You're okay."
"Time for bed!"

I would argue that most of this commentary is really for the parent's sake. "It's okay" translated is "I'm a capable, strong parent and I love my child. We will make it through this."

Guided by numerous baby books, I have tried to keep a running commentary of actions with Genghis as we go through our day. It's surprisingly hard, particularly when I was only getting 3 hour stretches of sleep. Functioning at half capacity, I sometimes found myself at the changing table, with the diaper hanging there, trying to find words to put to the situation. Genghis and I would stare at each other in a mutual stupor. Eventually I'd startle awake enough to finish the task with an incoherent "Diaper change finished now all clean, so good, huh?, yes, so good".

This, combined with the fact that I want our children to enjoy music, has lead to me to a lot of ongoing singing. If you've got a song you know, you can groove for a few minutes without even thinking about it. Sometimes you can even get on auto-repeat for the chorus (or the 2-line couplet which is the only part of the song that you know) and continue for 10-minute stretches until your husband gives you a funny look.

But when I first tried singing to Genghis, I found it difficult to dig up a repertoire of songs. For a while we circulated through The Itsy Bitsy Spider and the Mexican Hat Dance for playtime and James Taylor's Sweet Baby James or I Am a Child of God (a children's song in our church) for sleeping.

I kept at it, though, and soon I was breaking out into songs that I hadn't sung in years, was embarrassed to admit I knew, or didn't realize I even knew.

Some favorites:
- Phantom of the Opera (in sleep he sang to me, in dreams he came...)
- All I ask (also from Phantom)
- Music of the Night (again, Phantom)
- Starlight Express (Title song from the underappreciated Andrew Lloyd Weber musical on rollerskates)
- Fantine's Death: Come to Me (Les Mis)
- Red & Black (Les Mis)
- Sing, Sing, Sing
- Mack the Knife
- Summertime
- In the Mood (I'm getting really good at scatting)
- The Speed Test (Thoroughly Modern Millie)
- I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General (Pirates of Penzance, I only know the first line)

We also keep a hymnbook in the nursery and pick out a new song each night to sing to Genghis before he goes to sleep for the night.

Soon he'll be well rounded in show tunes, swing, and 19th century Protestant melodies.

*In an attempt to mimic the parlance of said baby books, I have deliberately omitted the article before baby. This is common practice in these books ("Many parents wonder how long they should let baby cry", "Smiling at baby will help him learn social cues"). I always fill in the articles in my head.


Spring said...

I know exactly what you're talking about. I kept a primary song book near by. I'd also get sick of talking and so we started listing to books on tape/cd and that has turned into children's audio books. So, that's now something we do a lot, listen to audio books during the day and in the car. We all enjoy it.

Megan said...

We like songs with hand actions in our house. Think YMCA.

Becky and Tyler said...

I sing to Lowe all the the car, around the house, while we're in the park playing...I talk a lot to him too...people sometimes give me funny looks in the grocery store! So whether he wants me to or not, he's getting sung to! But it's priceless when they try to sing along with you, surprising how much of Twinkle Twinkle or I Am A Child of God an 18 month old can sing!

Brittany said...

We love singing too! All kinds of music! Amelia is obsessed with me making up songs now. It's tricky.

Delia said...

Ha are so fun to read Erin. The best part is to make up songs. And if your husband is gone during the day he can't give you funny looks while you sing about the nasty dirty diaper you just changed...while your baby? Well baby will think you are a super star. :)