I get asked one particular question a lot.
“Do you sing to the baby?”
The short answer to that question is – yes, of course I sing to her! I started singing to her before she was born!
The longer answer, if I’m being totally honest, is that most of what I sing to her is complete nonsense.
If I were to continue in the spirit of honesty, I would tell you that while my daughter was growing inside me I used to have daydreams about how she would look at me. I wanted to be a mother who would sing lullabies so sweet and formative she would remember me as this angelic figure well into adulthood. That’s a far cry from my actual persona and the songs I make up for her on a regular basis. Right now my canon includes such hits as:
I’m Gonna Eat Some Baby Cheeks
When Peanuts Fly, It’s a Magical Day
Little Bubs/Willow Bug
Everyone Loves a Peanut
Peanuts; or sometimes Willows (to the tune of Peaches)
…AND MANY MORE!*
*This collection is not available in stores, or, anywhere.
If those aren’t embarrassing enough, Tom and I have also parodied a few songs for her. Kill The Beast has become Feed the Beast. Who’s That Lady? has become Who’s That Baby? And Feed Me, Seymour has become Feed Me, Mommy.
We DO sing real songs to Willow too. The funny thing is, I’m always surprised at the songs that come to me in the moment. Sometimes it’s whatever tracks are getting the most play in my life that week:
Most often it’s even more random than that. Kiss From A Rose was very popular during a bath the other day. A Paradox usually makes her giggle. I’ve pulled Brandy out from time to time, which is one of my Mom’s favorite songs.
Speaking of my Mom, she sang something to Willow the other day that I had completely forgotten about. She used to sing it for us when we were little and then give us Eskimo kisses. My Mom is the best with little songs and rhymes. Sometimes I think she has the entire book of Mother Goose rhymes memorized.
In addition to all that, my Mom’s musical taste is probably the most eclectic of anyone I know. (That includes you, hipsters!) She was the first person to introduce me to so many different styles of music. She lived her 20’s from 1965 to 1975, a decade I’m extremely jealous of from a musical standpoint. But it wasn’t all sitars and electric organs – I never knew what she would listen to. One day it was an Argentinian Mass, another day it was Medieval Crumhorns, then The Chieftans or bluegrass or Earth Wind and Fire or Mozart. Long before I performed in musicals, I heard Hair, Guy & Dolls, The Pajama Game, The Music Man, West Side Story, and The Mikado.
As much as I loved this music when I was younger, I love it even more now, because it has helped me to understand who my Mom is. Music is personal. Music is wonderful. I joke about making up stupid songs for Willow, but I really do want to put serious thought into the music she hears.
Every parent imagines that their baby is special – more special, in fact, than other babies. They imagine that their baby understands words early or that they’re stronger or faster than other babies. There have been several times that I’ve thought Willow might have acquired some new skill early and then I’ve tried to remind myself not to project superhuman traits onto this teeny tiny person. That being said…I think she likes music. Why do I think this? Because she seems to focus so hard whenever she hears it.
I have a very sweet memory from one of those first, very difficult weeks with Willow. Tom and I both love the song Vincent (Starry, Starry Night). One night before bed we found it on YouTube and played it for her. Willow was lying on Tom’s lap. When the song started playing, she stopped moving and looked straight ahead. She lay still and quiet through the whole song, and when it was finished resumed her normal baby activities. She’s 4 months old now and she still pauses and listens when she hears music. And as much as Willow likes when we talk to her, nothing puts a smile on her face faster than singing. Now, I know you skeptics out there are probably thinking to yourself that all babies like music. You’re probably (almost definitely) right. But considering how musically inclined Willow’s parents are, I think I’m going to let myself keep thinking that she’s special in that area.
So! My daughter is special and its up to us to make sure that she hears awesome music. More importantly, though, I want her to know who we are.
My Grandmother’s favorite song was Be Thou My Vision. The other day was a particularly trying one and I found myself with a very unhappy baby crying in my arms. She was cranky and overtired and nothing I did helped. In a moment of desperation I tried to think of something that might calm her and I started humming the first song that came to mind. It was my Grandmother’s song. And it worked. As I hummed and rocked my daughter, my Grandmother was there with me. I suppose that’s what makes it so powerful. Our music will help Willow grow, it will teach her who we are, and it will give her comfort when we’re not with her.
During senior year, Tom played the lead in his high school’s production of On The Town. One day, in his car in front of my house, he told me there was a song from the show that made him think of me. It was Some Other Time. I cried. That show also contained the song that gave this blog its name. Needless to say, it made an impression. All those years ago, when I was heartbroken over a relationship that I thought would never happen, I wish I could have told myself that our first dance at our wedding would be to Some Other Time. I walked down the aisle to Skinny Love, and Naked as We Came played when we shared our first kiss as husband and wife.
When Willow hears Marching Bands of Manhattan, she’ll know me when I was 22 and lovesick. Stay or Leave will tell her about Tom after a difficult breakup. I want her to know that Work always made me think of Tom, and that Wake Up helped Tom realize what he really, really wanted. When she hears Gershwin’s Lullaby, she’ll know not only what a romantic her father is, but also how desperately her mother loves him. I want her to know that when she was teeny tiny Tom and I would sing Ho Hey to her together and laugh.
I wish I could remember every single one of these moments. I’m sure there are plenty that I’ve already forgotten. There is just nothing like a song to give you a more perfect emotional snapshot. I want Willow to have as many of these snapshots as we can give her.
I think its safe to say that Willow will never think of me in the way I once hoped she would. She’s going to know me as I am – goofy, emotional, nostalgic, and full of love. And, in the spirit of honesty – I’m much happier with that.