Apropos of Nothing: Parenting with Tunes
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett
To the best of my knowledge, I have been involved in the production of three children. Truthfully, I’ve never had DNA tests performed to prove that I actually am the father of any children. But my wife assures me these three are mine, and I’m inclined to take her word for it. Relationships are about trust, after all.
As any decent father knows, being a parent is a learning experience. And that learning goes both ways.
My kids have learned a great many things from me over the years. Important things, too. For instance, they learned young that it’s not a good idea to wake dad up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday to ask him which channel SpongeBob is on. They’ve also learned to never end a sentence with the challenge, “and you can’t make me.”
Oh, yes I can.
My oldest child was born when I was a bright, enthusiastic young man just 25 years old. The next came along a decade later, and the last one showed up at our house when I was just beginning my long, downhill slide to senility. I was forty. If you do the math you’ll see that I had the pleasure and the pain of being legally, emotionally, and often physically attached to a small person for 15 years straight. Without a break. Not once. Seriously!
When I look back on it, it seems there has always been someone in my house crying, screaming, complaining, or experiencing an unfortunate event centered around the spillage of body fluids. But enough about me. Let’s talk about kids. More specifically, let’s talk about parenting kids. Raising them. Keeping them calm, getting them to eat, encouraging them to take naps, and maybe even keeping your sanity in the process. For me, the key was found in the classics. And by classics I mean music that was recorded in the 1960s, of course.
This may come as a surprise to some, but I am a leading authority on changing diapers. Yes, I realize this is an area of waste management that has traditionally be the domain of women. They do a fine job of it, too. In fact, when I was a mere lad living in Arizona, I believe my mother’s preferred method was to leave my brother and me outside in a large, entirely natural sandbox until dusk, then tough it out till the morning when we could be relocated outdoors again.
I changed a lot of diapers during my time on dad duty, and in the process I improved on the big Sonora Desert sandbox approach my mom used. Personally, I found salvation in the staccato rhythm of the Beach Boys classic, “Barbara Ann.” You don’t need one whit of musical talent to pull this off, so don’t let having a tin ear dissuade you. Sing “Barbara Ann” whenever you change your little one’s diapers. You just start with, “Ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-berannn, and repeat until the job is done. It doesn’t even matter if you remember the rest of the words. All you need is the Ba-ba part and you’re good to go.
You see, your kids don’t care what you’re singing to them, they only care that you’re singing, and you’re focusing all your attention on them. They love it. In fact, if left to their own devices they’ll make the challenge of dominating your attention a lifelong pursuit. But that’s a different story for a different day. Right now we’re talking about diaper changes – and let me tell you, having a happy, smiling baby singing, “Ba-ba, ba…” right along with you is a heck of a lot better than having a screaming, kicking, poop machine squirming around on the changing table like a wounded Kingfish on the deck of a rain slicked boat.
At bath time, it was “Rocky Raccoon.” The jaunty tale of a barroom gunfight between two men sparing over the affections of a young lady made for great bath time fun at our house. Prepare for giggling from girls when you get to the part about McGill, who called herself Lil, though everyone knew her as Nancy. If you have sons you might want to consider wearing a raincoat when the gunfight rolls around. I’m just saying – they may become a bit exuberant and act out the scene right there in the tub.
Boys are brain damaged. Don’t question it. They just are.
At bedtime, the appropriate selection is, “Goodnight” by the Beatles. It’s on the White Album. If you don’t have it, get it. Practice this song religiously throughout the pregnancy period. It may be the only weapon you have against a case of sleep deprivation the UN would classify as an illegal torture technique, if it didn’t happen to every third set of parents on the planet.
Good luck to you. If you’re the parent of a small child, you’re going to need it. But then, you already knew that, didn’t you?