Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sing along with Dad

Many find the thought of a stay-at-home dad funny because they imagine a burly manly man doing all the traditionally feminine tasks a caregiver must do every day. In movies and television, you don’t often see men rocking a baby to sleep or comforting a crying toddler, and when they do their discomfort is the punchline. And let’s face it, the image of a man carrying a diaper an arm’s length in front of him while pinching his nose is funny. But there is one part of my job that I would not want video cameras to record for posterity: my singing.

Any caregiver knows that you can say, “stop that, sit still for a second, calm down, oh please stop, this will only take a second…” and it will accomplish very little. But if you start singing, the child will stop and stare, if not join in your singing. Singing is the only way I can get both of the girls changed or Kate to calm down long enough to close her eyes to fall asleep. The only problem is I’m a terrible singer. As of yet, the girls haven’t figured that out, though Kate sometimes grabs my lips and pulls on them, which I won’t take as criticism until she’s four or five.

I’m not sure if this is unique to me or if others have experienced this difficulty, but whenever it comes time to sing a song, I can’t think of a single one to sing. I have shelves of CDs and thousands of songs on my IPod, yet none come to mind – none appropriate that is. So what do I do? I make the song up.

Now there are some rules to making up your own song: The tune should match a familiar song, and every line has to be repeated at least once. The words should match what’s going on at the time. For instance, here’s a song I sang to Kate while changing her diaper (to the tune of Frere Jacques):

Kate is stinky

Kate is stinky

Yes she is

Yes she is

Daddy needs a gas mask

Because the smell is awful

But there’s none

But there’s none

I also have a special song for when Clara’s fussy called “A Temper Tantrum” set to the tune of La Cucaracha. I’d write the lyrics but they change every time based on what she’s doing. If the tantrum isn’t too serious, she’ll forget her problems and laugh at her ridiculous father. Really, what pride do I have left?

While writing this I thought of a song I used to sing to baby Clara when she cried. The Power of Two by The Indigo Girls:

So we’re OK

We’re fine

Baby I’m here to stop your crying

Chase all the ghosts from your head

I’m stronger than the monster beneath your bed

Smarter than the tricks played on your heart

We’ll look at them together and we’ll take them apart

Adding up the total of a love that’s true

Multiply life by the power of two

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one making up songs! My favorite is to the tune of "Superfreak". "She's a very stinky girl......."

-Traci P.

Anonymous said...

While working with language delayed pre-schoolers, I found they would follow directions if I sang to them. (Let me say here that Joel got all his singing talent from me. He used to cry and say "Oh Mommy, PLEASE STOP! PLEASE STOP!") The pre-schoolers did not seem to notice. The thing was when I got home, I didn't stop singing. "I'm going to the kitchen to get cold water, eieio." Joel, I'm happy to say, it goes away when the kids get older.

Chris said...

Joel,
I am a native STLian who now resides in Houston. I came across a piece you wrote about the Blue Damsel Lodge in MT. I am happy that someone from my hometown knows of my little piece of heaven. My partner and I have known Keith and his wife Karen for quite some time and love them both dearly. I was extremely worried when fires threatened to encroach upon the lodge.
I really have no idea why I would find it necessary to write to you other than I am thrilled to know someone from St.Louis shares my Blue Damsel passion. Thanks for writing about it. Ka-Dee Thompson