My 7-year-old sings as she makes her way around the house. When she is playing, she sings quietly, long rambling sequences of fairly abstract phrases, as opposed to songs with melodies and lyrics of the sort she might learn in school. When she and her friend Samantha get together, sometimes they sing together in a more organized fashion – verses of a favorite from music class or a Disney movie – but when she’s by herself, she sings just as sort of background noise to keep herself company while she plays.
She also sings questions or observations sometimes. “Mommy may I please have some more orange juice?” becomes its own little melodic sequence, and so does “I can’t find my shoes today; they aren’t where I left them.”
I love hearing her sing. I love the good cheer it connotes, and its gentle yet joyful way of communication. I seldom sing myself because I have a scarily bad voice. When I do break into song, it’s usually to amuse the kids and it’s usually a matter of making up ad hoc lyrics intended to motivate a specific action on their part, such as the song I made to get us out the door on time, paying homage to “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals: “We’ve gotta get out of this house, if it’s the last thing we ever do! We’ve gotta get out of this house. Or we will miss the bus, and have to walk to school.”
In the past few days, my son has started singing, and it’s a mystery why. Tim, who is 11, never sang around the house. On Sunday, we needed to clean the house quickly, and Rick asked him to vacuum the upstairs bedrooms. With the vacuum running, we could hear him belting out “Row, row, row, your boat!” On and on he sang as the vacuum ran. I suppose it’s like singing in the shower: with noise and rhythm to back you up, it’s easier to let it out. Still, it’s not typical of Tim, and I was amused. When the vacuuming was done, he continued singing.
So much so, in fact, that Holly grew annoyed. She’s not used to having to talk over the background noise of Tim singing and asked him to stop. He reported to me that Holly was crying because of his singing. Then Holly started to cry. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “I wasn’t crying! Then Tim told you I was crying because he was singing, and that made me cry!”
Oh what a tangled web we weave, I thought to myself. My usually withdrawn and rather downcast son seemed to be brightening up and had discovered his loud singing voice for the first time in my memory; meanwhile my usually sunny daughter was crying over false accusations of, well, crying. Parenthood is never dull, even when the details seem to be.
Tim continued singing frequently in the days that followed. Could his cheery outbursts of song be an unexpected change with age? Some of the other boys we know who are his age or just a little older, immersed in pre-adolescence, seem to be growing moodier and more sullen. Wouldn't it be ironic if my son, who has always had a moodier mien than most of his friends, did the opposite as his teen years approached?
Another interesting angle is that a new pediatrician we visited for the first time last month when Tim had a slightly sore throat that I erroneously thought might be strep recommended that Tim start taking vitamins with iron. He’s been taking them for about two weeks now. Hence, singing? It seems like a stretch, but the evidence is bellowing its presence in front of me. Chalk one up for Fred Flintstone grape-flavored chewables, and someone please find me a tuning fork.