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May 19, 2009


Every night, I sing to Colin while he drinks his milk and falls asleep. This started when he was about three months old - I remember because of two things. First, I never sang to him before I started using the rocker, and I never nursed him in the rocker because gravity made it impossible. And second, I didn’t want my singing to be bad.

I am a trained musician, an opera singer, a performer. I have sung all kinds of things in all kinds of places for all kinds of people. There have been some really catastrophic performances and I lived to tell about it – most people don’t even notice the disaster, which I take to mean that I am That Good but which is more likely indicative of their sleeping through the evening.

So why, you might ask, did I worry about my infant son’s response? Obviously, because no performance had ever mattered more. No opinion had ever meant so much and no response had ever been so important. I could not bring myself to do it, just couldn’t open my mouth to sing to my little tiny infant son. I had tried several times, but I was so tired and I was always holding him so I couldn’t get a proper breath and I wasn’t really sleeping so I was hoarse. And it sounded weird, like something from someone else’s throat. I didn’t want my music to be alien or ugly for him. In fact, I would settle for nothing less than perfection for my baby.

Then, one night, or maybe early morning, Colin awoke with a start and could not be calmed. He didn’t want food, he didn’t need to be changed. That was about all I knew to do to soothe him at the time, so I was at a loss. I plucked him from his crib and we walked and bounced and talked and snuggled, but he was not satisfied. It was then, from somewhere within me, that music came out.

He was mesmerized. I remember his still-newborn eyes widened as he listened to singing, real music, for the first time. I had tucked him close to me to keep him warm in cold January and I could feel our skin touching. I knew that he could feel the vibration of the sound as much as he could hear the music. I wish I could remember what I sang to him that night, his first lullaby, but I distinctly remember thinking that I should have thought of a better song.

Whatever it was, it was good enough. He was not only calmed, he was hooked.

Now, singing is part of our nightly routine, as well as every other routine. Instead of wanting the music to be perfect for my little boy, I want it to be constant for him. We are always making some kind of music together, be it banging rhythms on the floor or dancing while we make dinner or a lullaby to soothe before bed, there is always music.

And, a far cry from his initial reaction to music, he now screams and bangs and hums along, always happy and excited for more. Except for at night, before bed, when he has a bottle and we rock in his chair. I sing all kinds of songs to him then. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “I Will” and “Amazing Grace” and “You Are My Sunshine”. Every night, he lies back in my arms and watches me sing, at least to start. Before too long, he kicks his little feet and furrows his brow, fighting to stay awake, but his struggle is futile. Rather like the forgiving audiences who swore they never heard my disastrous performance, it doesn’t matter what I sing to Colin or how it sounds because he will always fall asleep in the middle of it. Just as he should.

2 Readers rock!:

Kipper's Mommy said...

That was absolutely beautiful - my favorite post ever. I will hold the image of you singing 'Amazing Grace' (your grandfather's favorite) in my heart and mind always.

Love you - Aunt Linda

Dragonfly said...

That is awesome.