Saturday, August 19, 2006

I said I would never....

As mothers, we all have things we swore on the graves of our ancestors we would never do. For instance, co-sleeping. I was brought up to believe it was the worst possible thing you could do to a child; never mind the dangers of suffocating - you might actually spoil your child! Of course, that lasted until about two hours after bedtime, the first night we brought Hamlet home. Once I figured out that it was easier to night-nurse while lying down, that was the end of the no-cosleeping vow.

Another no-freakin-way-you-can't-make-me vow was never to subject us to children's music. Many variations of this exist. There are the classical CDs in which Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach are played only in the tinkling notes of the lullaby mobile. There are kids-only musicians like Raffi. And there are musicians, like Laurie Berkner, who write and play for kids, but supposedly appeal to grown-ups too.

Not this grown-up. I don't know what it is about kids' music; maybe the lack of angst. In any case, Hamlet's Dad sang songs by Tom Waits and The Beatles to him. He still loves them, plus songs by Gorillaz and Los Lobos and even Audioslave. And he recognizes jazz when he hears it on Mr. Rogers, which makes me very happy.

So I guess it was out of a sense of fairness that I allowed him to listen to the Sesame Street "Dreamytime Songs" CD we recently got from a friend. "Sleepytime on Sesame Street" was OK, but only because Hoots the Owl plays jazz and blues. I gritted my teeth through Elmo's off-key rendering of "In Your Imagination." Hamlet started to look as zoned-out as I felt through Kermit the Frog's "If I Were"; he perked up during "If Moon Was Cookie," but he may have associated it with Mr. Waits.

We both lost all patience with the next track, however... for slightly different reasons.

I was just plain bored by the time Snuffy sang "The Snufflelullaby." Hamlet, on the other hand, was Upset. "Sad song! Turn it off!" he wailed. So I did. I skipped to the next track, Telly Monster's "Afraid of the Dark."

"No sad songs! Mama, turn it off!" By now he was really starting to cry. Who wants to make her kid cry? I turned the CD off. To make it up to him, I put on Robert Cray. Sad songs are, after all, easier to take when they're bluesy. Hamlet calmed down. So did I.

Nearly a week later, Hamlet tells me, as I put CDs on, "No lullabies. I don't like them."

The interesting thing about this little episode is that it reinforces just how sensitive Hamlet is. I've caught him hiding behind his Dada's chair, crying his little eyes out, when he heard a "sad song." He doesn't like when Sir Topham Hatt chastises the engines. And he yells at us ("Don't say that!") when he thinks our voices sound tense.

When I was a kid, I was often told that I was "hypersensitive." I internalized everything I saw and felt - I still do. A lot of people saw it as a detriment; I needed to toughen up. I never did figure out how, and I'm glad for that, because it might have made the difference in whether I began to write for a living. Watching Hamlet, I wonder what this trait we share will mean for him - along with all the others. He loves to see how things work; will he be an engineer? He loves our attention for his silliness and his songs; will he be a musician? Or will he give into his shyness (as I did) and turn to more solitary artistic pursuits? Or will he retain his interest in construction and simply enjoy the hum of machinery and the beauty of a building he helps put together?

Time and nurturing will tell. Meanwhile, even with a second child on the way, I've been working to maintain a third vow: no minivans. Ever.


Blogger Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hello, fellow Snarkling!

I've got two munchkins and no minivan; it CAN be done, but it feels weird when you explain to a potential playdate that you don't have room in your car for the kid who is being foisted off on you for the afternoon (in their brains, it's foisting. In yours, it's a few hours of largely uninterrupted work with a background of cheerful chatter).

As for music... my kids listen to Metallica. I tried Tom Chapin to make the m-i-l happy and wound up needing to throw things through plate glass windows to feel better...

Keep on fighting the good fight of motherhood and writerhood... you're not alone.

23/8/06 7:30 PM  
Blogger Lee Hauser said...

Christa, my dear, don't have more than two children and you'll never have to worry about minivans. A standard sedan or even a nice-looking station wagon like a Taurus or Volvo can easily handle two car seats. We had a Toyota Tercel until #1 son's legs got too long. Talk about whining from the back seat!

24/8/06 1:19 PM  
Blogger Christa M. Miller said...

Susan - it's lovely to see you here! Thanks for visiting. Great point about the no-room-for-guests issue. ;) As for Metallica, I've had to draw the line there. Some songs are OK, but "Enter Sandman" scared the poor kid. Like I said - sensitive!

Lee - I think I'm done after this one, but in the event of an "accident," it will be an SUV before it will be a minivan. I just don't see myself as a minivan person! My Toyota Matrix is as far as I'm willing to go!

24/8/06 6:36 PM  
Blogger Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Well, yes, Sandman IS a song that scares me, too... if only because it's the only song so many fans know and is thus overplayed as anything! Aaugh!

Seriously... I said I'd do an SUV before minivan, too, and thankfully, my husband agrees. I'd even do an SUV as a third vehicle, assuming I needed a third vehicle (what? Having four-wheel drive for Martian winters isn't reason enough?), or assuming I had a garage for it...

Thanks for the welcome; I think we have a lot in common!

27/8/06 7:58 PM  
Blogger Silandara said...

I'm in the no-minivan-no-way club. We have a Subaru wagon which should work great for two kids. And I bet I could squeeze 3 car seats in there if I really needed to.

14/10/06 6:25 PM  

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