The Not-So-Great American Songbook
A new mother discovers the joy of song
I don’t sing. It’s a simple fact. I never have, and swore that I never would. Not even into my hairbrush for fear that the bristles would shrivel in agony. That’s until Ian arrived.
Now it’s time for The First Bath. To say it doesn’t go well would be a slight understatement. When it’s over, I look at the shivering, mewling stranger and wonder if the hospital has a 30-day return policy. Or, if just baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and the tried-but-true mom-thumb-lick/kidcheek- swipe will provide adequate cleansing until he sprouts a fuzzy upper lip and a deep voice.
My mom stops by the next day. As I listen to her painfully warbling to Ian, it dawns on me where my assumed tin ear comes from; the woman couldn’t carry a tune if it were glued to her forehead. Ian is transfixed.
Soon it’s time for The Second Bath. Ian is staring at me with my husband’s big brown eyes and suddenly I find my mouth is open and singing the instant classic, Ian Gets a Bath. It goes a little something (well, a lot) like this, “Ian gets a bath. Ian gets a bath.” (You can sort of see there’s a pattern forming here.) As the phrase tumbles out, I feel a wave of calmness ever so slightly soothe my troubled, sleepdeprived new mom psyche. So does Ian. It seems that singing is better than crying— for both of us.
We hit the highlights of the Not-So-Great American Songbook as we go about our day. Jingles for fleaand- tick remedies and sloppy joe sauce. The one-hit wonders of my adolescence of big hair and bigger angst. Dusty snippets of slightly bawdy vaudeville songs my great-grandmother sang to my mother, which my mother then sang to me. Ian is having a wonderful time and I soon discover that I am, too.
As the days grow shorter (and feel much longer), I decide that we should take our family act onto the road and expand our repertoire to include more age-appropriate (for him) material. We enroll in a class called Music Makers and Shakers for Babies. It involves the singing of real songs in front of real people. We walk in the door and suddenly my bravado decides to hightail it back to the safety of the car.
But the face I never imagined falling in love with is waiting. So, I start to sing. The other moms and toddling toddlers disappear and I’m the delicate soprano enchanting my audience of one… the only one that matters.
A smart man once told my husband this key to being a parent, “You don’t have to be interesting. You need to be interested.” I’ll amend that now to include, “It doesn’t matter whether or not you CAN sing. It’s simply that you SING.”
To your child, it’s the most beautiful sound in the world.