Songs for a Baby

The elder J discussed in a recent entry that this blog is about a year old. He mentioned that I (The Sister) had written for the blog more than once. One thing I’d like to do in 2013 is to contribute more to this blog. I don’t have ideas like my brothers do, but once in awhile something pops into my head and I feel inspired to sit down and write. Frequently my brothers have mentioned our father’s unexpected passing and have discussed how the two of them have grown closer since that happened and since they created this blog. Sadly, I feel more detached from my brothers since my father passed, rather than feeling closer to them, so my thought is if I stay more involved in this blog, I may be able to enhance my relationship with them. So here goes.

My now 9 month daughter made a dramatic appearance six weeks early into the world back on Easter Sunday last year. This may seem painfully obvious, but having a baby changes your life dramatically. My top priority was no longer my husband and my law career—it was my daughter and her well-being. Her health and happiness are the most important things in my life and have been the second I learned I was expecting her. It’s tough having a new baby, it’s even tougher having a premature baby—countless visits to various pediatric specialists, concerns about every ounce of weight gained or lost, stress about her sleep patterns, stress about her eating habits and about the action seen by her diaper.

We even got to the point where when we finally brought her home, we missed the constant beeping and dinging from the monitors in the NICU. In retrospect maybe I have worried too much or overreacted, but hey she’s my first baby, she didn’t arrive how and when we expected her to, and does any parent really ever stop worrying about their kids?

Anyway, on to the point of this entry. The younger J gave my daughter a great list of songs and quite a tribute in his New Niece Playlist shortly after she was born, but I’ve been doing some thinking lately about songs my daughter loves. She doesn’t yet have the range in musical tastes that my niece and nephew have, but there are some in particular that she very obviously loves and these are the ones that my husband and I sing to her frequently, in the car, around her crib, or even while giving her a bath.

“The Unicorn Song”—the Irish Rovers

This is a musical version of a poem from Shel Silverstein’s compilation “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” Let me first say that we are fairly certain Mr. Silverstein dabbled in the same types of drugs that Dr. Seuss seemed to enjoy. We read Mr. Silverstein’s poems to the baby practically every day and we sound simply ridiculous reciting them aloud. The song (and the poem) tells the story of Noah building his ark and explains why we never see any unicorns.

This is the very first song my husband ever sang to our daughter. He had read someplace that Celtic brogues were good for a baby’s brain development. I’m not sure if that’s true, I think he just wanted to play that particular type of music and be able to justify it. I had never heard the song before, in fact I had never even heard the poem, as I was more of “A Light in the Attic” type of girl. (I had the audio tape and as a child, I used to listen to it at night as I was going to sleep.)

When I first listened to all the words of this song, I was horrified because all of the unicorns get swept away in the flood instead of being safely on Noah’s ark. But when you think about it, we really do never see any unicorns and there are plenty of green alligators and long-necked geese kicking around. The baby loves this song. She kicks her legs, flails her arms, she laughs, she makes noises like she’s trying to sing along, and it’s a surefire way to turn her rare frown upside down.

“Serenade #13 in G Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

As soon as I learned I was pregnant, I immediately downloaded the album “Mozart for Brain Power” and began to play it around the clock. I even was working out to this song during my first trimester and assumed the baby could hear the music even through my earbuds. I played it in my old office, in the car, in the house—everywhere I was, this album was playing. My husband had learned that the best composer for a baby to listen to in utero was Mozart, which is why we took that route instead of going with Vivaldi or Tchaikovsky, two of my personal favorites (I’m obsessed with the Nutcracker, having danced in the ballet three years in a row as a kid).

This is one of Mozart’s better known pieces, and apparently it’s wonderful enough to be featured TWICE on the album. It’s the tune my daughter has known for the longest, and I swear when she hears it, she “conducts” the music. To others she may just look like she’s waving her arms around but there’s really gotta be something else going on…
“Flightless Bird, American Mouth”—Iron and Wine

The elder has mentioned Iron and Wine several times in his entries. I’m not as familiar with Iron and Wine as he is, but I am familiar with some of their music, this song in particular. I first heard music by Iron and Wine when I was in law school, and then I heard this song again, embarrassingly enough, while I was watching Breaking Dawn, Part One.

(I am outing myself at this point—up until now I’ve been somewhat of a closet Twi-hard, now you all know the truth—I love glittery vampires and moody guys who turn into gigantic werewolves—go ahead and mock me, I deserve it).

To me, this song doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’ve read several interpretations online and I can understand where some of the interpreters are going with their thoughts, but I’ve yet to determine its actual meaning. Anyway, how does this song relate to my daughter? Well recently she was diagnosed with her second ear infection in just three weeks, and nothing I did would settle her down. I tried reading to her, giving her a bath, feeding her, putting lotion on her…nothing worked. I popped on this song and she was passed out immediately. I now include this song in her top favorites and challenge anyone with a fussy baby to play it for your child. I hope you won’t be disappointed.

“Puff, the Magic Dragon”—Peter, Paul and Mary

This is a classic. My brothers and I listened to this song as kids. A family friend would play the guitar and sing this song for us. I heard it countless times as a young one. My husband is the one who plays or sings this song for the baby, because it makes me too sad to listen to it. However I am almost at the point where I can listen to this song without tearing up. Maybe it’s because I remember my childhood and long for those simple days when I listen to it, maybe I get sad because it’s a damn sad song about kids growing up. We have a dragon puppet that belonged to my husband when he was a child, and to distract myself from the words, I usually dance the puppet around for my daughter while we listen to the song. Regardless of my inability to get through the entire song, the baby loves it. It soothes her, it calms her and it makes her smile.

“Elmo’s Song”—Elmo featuring Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus

This song is in my head approximately 20 hours a day. When my husband had leg surgery this past October, my mother in law watched the baby while I went to the hospital with him. On that fateful day, my little girl fell in love with Elmo and life has never been the same. My mother in law showed the baby Elmo videos on YouTube to help entertain her. I wasn’t too keen on my kid having screen time so early in her life, but I understand there’s only so much a woman in her late 60s can do with a baby to keep her occupied while her parents are away.

This song is seriously the top song of my child’s life. 99.9% of the time, it can make her happy in almost any situation and solve almost any problem. Even when she’s screaming from hunger because her bottle isn’t heating up quickly enough, if we turn this song on, she forgets about how hungry she is. She sees her friend Elmo singing away, sharing his song with Big Bird and Snuffy. We sing the song ourselves, replacing “Elmo” with her name when we aren’t close enough to a smart phone or computer to play the video for her. I didn’t realize Elmo could cast his spell so early, but he certainly plays a big role in my daughter’s (and our!) life. Say what you will about the guy who does Elmo’s voice, but without Elmo, I think my days would have a lot more screaming, from both the baby and myself!

At 9 months of age, these are some of the songs that my daughter enjoys. As said previously, her musical tastes and knowledge are not as expansive or diverse as those of her cousins, but it sure will be fun to see how her musical taste changes as she grows. Big brother, did any of these songs play a role in your kids’ early months?

3 comments on “Songs for a Baby

  1. theelderj says:

    Man, that first year as a parent can really be harrowing. Nothing makes you as desperate or as bound to someone as an infant’s cry.

    As I talked about in the blog, we relied heavily on the canned music of the Baby Music machines–which in turn made me a little nuts. But once we got to the first one eating alone it was the Hip Hop channel and reggae. Lately, however, both kids have been loving jazz and blues.

    Your niece sings to herself all the time and it is just spontaneous and sweet enough to break my heart. Her song? A seemingly endless combination of “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, “ABC” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”–all of which have the same tune. But she basically begs me to play “Go Down Hannah” by the Heritage Blues Orchestra, which is a strange tune for a toddler to love.

    I am not sure I am totally down with the claim that one type of music or one artist is best for a child. I think the variety of experience of different genres, sounds, tones is most important. In addition, I suspect that the complexity of music helps. But, let’s be honest, Mozart doesn’t have the market cornered on complexity. (Although he’s pretty sharp).

    Keep your eyes and ears open. The littlest member of our family will never cease to surprise you.

    • The sister says:

      Ah yes I remember the tunes you mentioned from the baby toys. The music from the swing, mobile, exersaucer and the Baby Einstein gym definitely have had a profound impact on the baby and on her parents! Those are other songs we often hum and sing.

  2. […] that my daughter is getting older and is starting to recognize music, I’ve been making a point to introduce new and different music […]

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