Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Sing to Your Babe

Sing to Your Babe
Caroline Oakley

Singing to baby Simon from the start, was really a sanity tool for mama. Simon, while very impulsive and adventurous most of the time, is often reluctant to try new things. From the get-go, Simon hated having his diaper changed, riding in an automobile, chillin’ in his swing, and going for walks in the stroller. Needless to say, some of these things had to happen from time to time. As a working musician, I’d have thought the singing revelation might have come sooner, but it didn’t. I mean I sing around the house all the time, but I never used to think of it as a parenting tool.

It came to me one warm September morning as I was attempting to convince Simon once again that the stroller wasn’t so bad. I’m all into baby-wearing, but when you are car-less and have to walk 30 blocks to get groceries, a Baby-Bjorn on the front and loaded backpack on the flipside is just not good for one’s spine. He wasn’t falling for the these-are-the-glory-days argument that in 10 years you’ll be begging me to push you around in a stroller. So three blocks out from the house when I started to hear the whimpers that usually steamroll into a teary-eyed, red-faced, screaming baby, I started singing. I made up a ridiculous song about my baby chicken—(as a mewling newborn, Simon used to make the most delightful little squawking chicken sounds). I made up a verse and sang it over and over. The whimpering ceased. He actually seemed to like it, looking very pensive, almost happy. I soon got bored with the verse and stopped singing. The whimpering started up again. I resumed singing, making up a few more verses as we walked. Again Simon was peaceful, seeming to enjoy the view, as all babies in a stroller on a gorgeous Indian summer day should. Tiring of the chicken song, I racked my brain for bits and pieces of songs from my childhood. I sang about the itsy bitsy spider, froggy going courting, Puff the Magic Dragon. When I couldn’t remember words, I made up others or simply repeated the ones I knew. Simon didn’t seem to care either way. We made it all the way to the co-op without incident. I was amazed.

From that day, I’ve been building quite an arsenal of silly children’s’ songs. For some reason, the sillier the song and my voice, the more he likes it (luckily I’m a retired camp counselor). Over time, Simon slowly began to tolerate his stroller. He still prefers to be worn, but sometimes it’s just gotta be the stroller. About a month after the chicken song walk, we were out and about the neighborhood in the stroller and as usual I was singing to Simon (some utterly ludicrous yet pretty song about talking buffaloes on a wind-swept desert). The song ended and we continued walking in silence. Then Simon started in on the most enchanting cooing sounds I’ve ever heard. He cooed rhythmically and melodically in a very sweet, gentle voice. He was singing back to me!

I’m a huge sing-to-your-baby advocate these days. I picked up a great book called Rise Up Singing, edited by Peter Blood and Annie Patterson. GO GET IT! It has the words, chords, and sources to 1200 songs. Any song you ever heard as a child is probably in there. I bought it because I wanted the words to “Puff the Magic Dragon,” which Simon loves. Anyone can sing to their baby. You don’t have to be the least bit “musical.” Kids don’t notice the difference, they just think it’s big fun. And it is.

No comments: