I have three sons – a stepson grown and gone, a teen, and an almost teen. I was there when the younger two came into the world. I did my best to be a good dad to my baby boys, though I freely admit I enjoy parenting more and more the older they get! Naturally, my fatherly duties included soothing them when they were unhappy or sick. Like most kids, they’re unmistakably like their mother and father but night-and-day different from each other. But when they were in distress, they both calmed down when I sang to them.
The older son was good natured from the start. It’s as if he awoke every morning and said to himself, “I think I’m going to have a happy day,” and then set about making it so. He filled his days with big smiles for everyone who caught his gaze. He encountering everything – toy, television show, meal, our dog, other children – with such joy and delight you’d think it was long lost and beloved.
The colic that plagued him the first nine months of his life stood out in stark relief. Things started going south for him each day by late afternoon. By the time I came home from work he was fully miserable and wailing like an air raid siren. His frazzled mother immediately handed him off to me and and disappeared into the kitchen to seek relief (and make dinner). Now, I cared about my poor son’s suffering. But honestly, I mostly just wanted his eardrum-piercing shrieks to end. Seriously, you could hear the boy out in the yard even when all the windows and doors were closed. I quickly figured out that holding him to my chest as I paced through the house calmed him some. I tried singing to him as I paced and found that some songs calmed him a little while others had no effect. I tried every song in my repertoire. When I sang this obscure Paul McCartney and Wings song to him, he went limp and silent in my arms. So I sang it to him over and over, pacing the length of our ranch-style home every night for hours at a time. Finally, blessedly, the colic ended.
My younger son, on the other hand, approached life with steely determination. Think Chuck Norris out to get the bad guys. The boy quickly sized up a situation, identified his goal, and set about achieving it. His first conquest was the couch. It was cute at first to watch him grunt and struggle to pull himself up off the floor and onto the seat cushions. But after he achieved that, he set his sights on the arm and then the side-table lamp, which was not going to end well. We had to keep an eagle eye on that kid!
But with each new objective his desires at first outpaced his abilities. He would try and fail, and try and fail, and try and fail, getting angrier and angrier all the way. Soon his frustration would consume him and he’d just cry in hard fury, turning brick red and gasping through his sobs. I’d collect him into my arms, fall back into the big comfy recliner, and rock while I sang to him just hoping he’d catch a breath! At first this would make him cry harder, as if he was determined to stay angry. But soon he’d start to relax, and the crying would ebb, and finally he’d breathe easy. This gentle Paul Simon song was easy to sing quietly to him and soon I sang it habitually. After a while, just hearing me sing it calmed him.
I’m reflecting on this today because tomorrow my older son, still the good-natured optimist, turns 15.
Do you have children? What songs did you sing to them?
I’ve always loved to sing. It soothes me and lifts my spirits. Read that story.