I don’t often write here about being a parent, but I like sharing how different art forms enhanced the first years of our son’s life. And often saved me.
When it comes to lists of “Things You Definitely Will/Won’t Need” for a baby, I don’t think I ever read one about music. There are tons of articles about how music helps a baby’s developing brain, but very little guidance on what specific music can teach your child about life. I don’t mean deep-seated meaning of life songs, I’m talking about a way to connect what you’re doing with why you’re doing it. You know, for that little human being who knows absolutely zero about the world and has to catch up fast.
Thus I give you, in roughly chronological order, the albums that saved us from multiple meltdowns and helped our child through the many mysteries and transitions of his first year.
This is the album that started it all. When my son was about two months old, I went to a class called “Bonding with your Baby.” To be honest, the deal-breaker for me was that we got a free CD along with the $25 class fee. Vered was a visiting musician from New York and although her presentation was a little awkward, her songs continue to rule our daily routines. We always used to sing “Good Morning my Love” before getting out of bed; “Bathtime” quickly became a staple; “Sleep My Baby” was a magic elixir during those hard first nights, and continues to be one of his favorite Get-the-f*ck-to-sleep tunes. I even bought my nephew the album and he’ll play it to self soothe during a meltdown.
It’s likely that you’ve at least heard “Istanbul not Constantinople,” made famous by the video on Tiny Toons. Here Comes Science makes hard concepts easily digestible for both parents and kids. I could never remember the order of the planets to save my life. That is, until I heard the song “How Many Planets” from this album. My absolute favorite line has to be from “Science is Real” though:
I like the stories
About angels, unicorns and elves….
But when I’m seeking knowledge
Either simple or abstract
The facts are with science
Electric cars, CAD (Computer Assisted Design), testing a hypothesis and paleontology are just some of the topics they cover. We’ve tied these songs to trips to science museums, planet books, and I even sang “The Bloodmobile” at his first year appointment when blood had to be drawn for the first time. It definitely calmed him down and gave me a really specific way to describe to him why this had to happen. Even if he didn’t comprehend the connection between the lyrics and the blood technician’s actions, he heard a familiar melody and trusted it. I remember him releasing a lot of tension and relaxing against me once I sang that song.
Individual Songs also play their roles. These two together work wonders:
“It’s Time to Say Goodbye” is apparently a staple for children’s music classes. I heard it once and started using it to signal that it’s time to go, and my son’s transitions improved significantly. To this day, If he cries about leaving a place he loved, I just sing this and he calms down. I stopped saying “It’s time to go” and lead with “It’s time to say goodbye,” then begin the song. Now he even takes the initiative to put down his toy, raise his arms for me to hold him and wave goodbye as we exit.
Once that song is over, I go into “If I Had the Wings of an Eagle” by Ziggy Marley, which is pretty soothing and also about flying away to be at peace. (Only while researching it for this post did I learn it comes from a psalm and he replaced “dove” with “eagle”). It didn’t take long for our son to start spreading his wings to fly as we walked to the car. Belting him into his seat got a lot easier once this became a regular part of our routine.
The world is pretty scary for a new person, especially if everyone else understands the rules and you don’t. I like to give him clues and know what to expect by essentially — and consistently — singing him through life.