Parenting younger children while maintaining one’s sanity requires an endless supply of patience and a superhuman tolerance for repetition.
I have neither.
Therefore, during the most trying phases of early childhood (uh, morning until night, approximately) I found myself seeking any and all opportunities to distract and entertain. I was constantly at war with tedium, and employed many tactics such as DVDs, toys, babysitters and hide-and-seek (OK, Mommy’s going to count to 1,000) to pass the time. Quick side note: I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank The Wiggles for gifting us with your primary-colored, zany-charactered hypnotic voodoo act; though it thoroughly disturbed me, it worked on my kid…she was like a Deadhead during Drums in Space when you guys launched into Mashed Banana (pronounced: bah-nah-nah) and I got a lot done while you held her attention.
During the minivan years (ages 3 – 7), I made the mistake of permitting kid music during our drive time. I’m not sure why I did this – maybe just to stifle the all-too-common battle cry of “how much longer til we get there?”, which is unfortunately never satisfied by the logical response “when the car stops and I say ‘we’re here!'”. I’m sure it had something to do with achieving peace and quiet. One afternoon during the usual 5-minutes of griping that preceded every car ride, I suggested the girls grab one of the kid CDs in their playroom. This was met with little squeals of delight, and off my girls tottered to find something they wanted to play. 20 minutes later (“this one”…”NO, I want this one”…SMACK! CRASH! BANG!) they emerged with a bubble-gum pink Barbie music CD. Oh, joy.
We slid that baby in the player before even leaving the garage. It turned out to be some covers of popular music (I don’t even like the Black Eyed Peas, so when Barbie does it? An exquisite kind of pain I can’t really describe) which my kids liked better than the versions sung by the original artists. This probably had something to do with them imagining The Barbie chillin’ in the studio, laying down some tracks with her homies. She’d be in one of her ‘hip’ outfits with Ken behind the glass snapping in perfect rhythm to the beat (well, his fingers are fused together, but you know what I mean). Barbie’s cool.
Right before the full frontal lobotomy was complete, the song changed to a cover of Unwritten by Natasha Beningfield. If you don’t know this song, the gist of it is about being yourself, taking risks and striving for your goals. My girls asked to play it over-and-over again. Eventually they learned the words (and I snickered every time Barbie’s voice cracked on the high notes) and sang little bits of it to themselves and others over the next few weeks. We dubbed it our ‘happy song’ and bonded over the bubbly feeling we (they) got when they heard it.
Flash forward to present day (the middle school years). We were driving somewhere not too long ago and all of a sudden Unwritten came on the radio (sung by the real artist…I heard Barbie retired to Malibu). My youngest, who was maybe 2 years old when we started playing the song, perked up and said, “Mom! That’s our happy song!”.
Now, this bitter mama doesn’t get choked up about much these days, but I will say that witnessing my daughter recall the significance of a song she experienced with me 9 years before was nothing short of incredible. Sorry to be uncharacteristically new-agey, but the lyrics in that song have some relevance to our journey as parents and their journey as kids.
It’s also a good example of how our kids retain the most arcane events from their early days. Even the little things we do sneak into their permanent memory banks. For us, the lyrics of that song were motivating and inspirational, and still are to this day. That makes me pretty happy. I’m sure for every Unwritten memory there are 35 not-so-flattering examples of my parenting, but hey – I’ll take it.
What I’m happiest about? It doesn’t seem that they weren’t listening too hard when I accidentally played Eminem in the car because so far there haven’t been any sudden outbursts of profanity-laced rap. Bonus Good Mommy points for me.