We all sing to our children at one point or another. Singing and babies – they just go together. But today’s Growing Together guest does it with a style and a purpose unlike anyone I’ve ever seen. Please give a warm welcome to Jessie from Jester Queen!
At her place, Jessie writes a mix of fiction and memoir and all of her stories are told with a raw honesty that keeps me reading. And reading, and reading. If you don’t know Jessie yet, please read her lovely story below about how music was the key to so much for her amazing little ones, and then go visit her at her place.
My favorite part of Jessie’s post today? That she included recordings of herself singing the songs that became such a big part of her life and her time spent raising humans. Be sure to listen as you read!
Both my kids have Asperger’s syndrome. They are on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum, so spectators don’t typically notice there’s something unusual. But to me, as their mother, the condition was glaringly obvious from a very early age. Caroline especially required rigid routines starting before she was four months old, and if we varied them, she wailed for hours. She loved to be held and cuddled, but only on her own terms. And if we violated Caroline’s Code of Contact, she screamed.
I think the first song I sang her was about diapers. Dirty diaper changes were particularly traumatic because of the temperature shifts. Her little body responded strongly to sensory data, and she hated drastic change. She howled and thrashed on the table. I was probably singing more to keep myself sane than for her benefit. But when she abruptly stopped kicking and flailing and jamming her feet in the poop, you can believe I repeated that song. And then, every diaper change required The Diaper Song. I can’t remember how that one went at all. Sam didn’t need it, and the tune and lyrics have faded into my mind. (Probably good. There was poop or odor in every verse, I think.)
But I have a good sense of self preservation, and I figured that what worked for one activity could work for another. Suddenly, we had songs for everything, most of them sharing tunes with popular nursery rhymes. My mother has always sung me little songs like this, and she contributed to the pot, as well. For instance, the bathwater that Caroline didn’t want me to drain brought on a chorus of Nanny’s “Bye Bye Water” song: ByeByeWater
For tooth brushing, I employed a family standby about what the toothbrush was to connect with in your mouth: BrushYourTeeth
Caroline was a late walker. She never crawled and only developed this odd little scooting across the floor trick when she was around 9 months old. But then, when she did walk, she was averse to holding hands. In order to get out of chasing her to the car at every turn, I found myself instead singing. (Yes, that is a barking plot in the second line. I’m sure I don’t know how it got there.): HoldHandsInTheParkingLot
She’s also pretty universally inherited Scott’s and my night owl gene, meaning she hates to get up in the morning, even if I put her to bed at 8PM the night before. She’s gotten rather immune to it now, but for a good two years, I could wake her up with the insanely perky GoodmorningMerrySunshine
Sam, when he came along, required an entirely different set of songs. For one thing, he’s a morning person, and quite prone to amusing himself in the most inappropriate of ways before the rest of us crack an eyeball. (One morning, he poured dog food on the floor in four rooms and the hall, one gentle cup at a time. He must have been awake for hours.) I used to be a very light sleeper. But something about the exhaustion of parenthood has transformed me into a log. And Scott has always slept heavily. Which means I tuck Sam in with a chorus of “Wake Up Your Mom” to remind him not to engage in 3 AM escapades without my companionship: Wakeup2
Then, one morning Caroline came and got us up at 6:30 (majorly early for her) to casually report, “Sam just came back in the front door.” (Better than coffee for jolting us out of bed fast, this kid; one of us could have forgotten the key in the deadbolt locking up the night before, but he might also have gone and gotten it.) I developed a song about keeping an adult on-hand in the great outdoors: Comebackinside
Of course, he also has his own “I Love You” song: Iloveyoutopieces
And like his sister, he is extremely musically inclined. Indeed, when Sam had his hearing tested, the audiologist found that he can’t process competing sounds unless one of them is sung to him. She realized this when he started singing back prompts to her. She said in twenty years, she’d never seen a kid develop a coping mechanism like that. And it makes me wonder if I, as a parent developed the mechanism and taught it to him, or if the music is engrained in my children’s genetic code somewhere, and I’m merely responding to it when I sing to them.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. Her blog is her home for family stories and fiction. The Gypsy Pirate Jester Queen was a character in a short story she wrote. When she married a guy named Merriman, the character’s name got shortened, and the Jester Queen was born. She got her own blog a little more than a year ago, and now she competes with Jessie’s other alter egos for writing space. You can find out more about her little humans and read her fiction over at her website.