My friend Barbara recently asked: “What place does music have in the life of your child?”
I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you to know that music, for my kids, was something they started experiencing in the womb. I never put earphones to my pregnant belly, as you sometime see people doing in movies, but I did go to concerts, and I played piano, and I sang. Halia, in particular, got a weekly dose of in utero Big Band music when I went to rehearsals, and she’d start kicking whenever we started to play. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Big Band music is what brought on labour.
The night before Halia was born, I attended a rehearsal just for fun. No one expected to see me there because I was already on maternity leave and the replacement pianist was there. Lucky for me, our regular vocalist was away, so the band asked me to sing a few tunes. The pure bliss of pouring my heart into the music relaxed me in a way I hadn’t felt in months, since most of Halia’s pregnancy was coloured with the stress and emotional strain of fighting to control Jade’s seizures. That intense sense of well-being I experienced after such a long period of stress is what finally allowed my body to begin the process of labour. Call me crazy, but I’m sure it’s true.
Halia felt it, too. Up until a few months ago, singing the last song I did that night with the band (Orange-Colored Sky) was a surefire way to end her tears. Every time I’d sung that song while I was pregnant with Halia, I’d get happy. Every time I sang that song to her for almost two years after her birth, she got happy. That’s a pretty long-lasting effect.
Jade loves music, too. (She requests Orange-Colored Sky by asking for the “Flash! Bam! song”.) We used to take turns picking songs when we were driving somewhere. She’d ask for Twinkle, Twinkle, which I’d sing for her, and then I’d get to pick a tune to sing. She also knows that she has a song (called Perfect Angel) that I wrote for her when she started having seizures, and she often asks for it. She tells us, “I used to have broken wings, but now they aren’t broken anymore! I have fixed wings!”
Of course, the girls have their own big basket full of shakers, slide whistles, kazoos, harmonicas, tambourines, etc., and making music with these (plus the piano) is a favourite activity. I’ve come to think of singing, though, as a kind of a litmus test of their development.
Jade has always enjoyed music, but even as recently as last spring (at four years old), she wouldn’t — couldn’t — sing a whole song through with all the words. She’d mumble three quarters of the words (unsure of them, perhaps?) and get about half the melody before trailing off. Halia, on the other hand, has been singing the melody for Twinkle, Twinkle since she was about fifteen months old (without words, of course!). Among Jade’s huge developmental gains this summer, there has been an explosion in her musical repertoire. She now knows dozens of songs, with all their words, and she’s developing very good pitch in her singing voice. When Gran and Buddy brought her a Puff the Magic Dragon book and CD this summer, she had the whole song memorized — ALL the verses — within days.
I don’t know what instruments the girls might get interested in as they grow older. I don’t know just how music is going to fit into their lives. (I wonder if they’ll start listening to stuff I hate — oh wait, that sometimes happens already.) But no matter what they play, sing, or listen to, I know music is going to be a big part of their lives. Because it already is.