Bringing up children is accompanied by non-ceasing ‘music’. Buy two children, get the soundtrack free! Some of it is actual music with notes and a beat, some of it is pure, unadulterated noise. In my case, quite a lot of it is homemade music coming out of my mouth. Then of course there are the sounds that come out of different body parts…described nonsensically as a ‘toot from your boot’ in our house, or sometimes, when in an exotic mood, ‘tooti frooti from your booty’, which is a little more accurate.
This seven year soundtrack began with serenading bump number one with Mozart sonatas. The bump was unfussed about Mozart, seeming to prefer total silence, ie, when we were tucked up in bed, at which point bump had a riotous, underwater disco. Bump number two did not get the luxury of having in-utero concerts, but had to make do with endlessly repeating nursery rhymes on a loop.
The bumps then arrived and, moments after taking in their first lungful of air, they let it all out again in ear-splitting, indignant squawks. ‘Where am I?’ they were complaining, and ‘Who turned all the lights on?’ and ‘Put me back in my comforting little pool-world where all I had to do was suck my thumb and dance, while everything else was done for me, including breathing, eating and pooing.’ Pre-children, the cries of newborn babies (often heard at the checkout) triggered the general thought, ‘That mother really ought to do something about that extremely loud, irritating sound, which she is thoughtlessly inflicting on me.’ The cries of my own newborn child (often heard at the checkout, all day, and all through the night too) triggered the thought, ‘My baby is in perilous need and unless I comfort them now, they will be scarred for life.’ That urgent newborn sound had the uncanny ability to tear through my carefully cultivated ‘art of sleeping through anything’, including whole pre-dawn conversations with my mother, and would rip me out of bed before I even knew I was awake.
The efficient night-long alarm call began to get less frequent, and at four months old my little fat son sang me the most beautiful song a mother can hear: he laughed. Just when I thought I couldn’t give any more, just when I thought being awake all night was a pretty raw deal, I squished his fat little thigh and he let out a pure little gurgle of joy. My daughter didn’t wait as long to reward me with her happy trills, I just to lean over her and go, ‘Baaaah’ and she’d let rip from about three months old. Of course, she also had her big brother to amuse her, which he did. One of his tricks was to grab both her ears and jiggle up and down saying, ‘Mus Tus! Mus Tus!’ This was comedy gold to Roseanna.
Next came quite a few years of ‘singalong’ sessions. Other babies and toddlers seemed to actively enjoy these sessions, bleating along, or doing all the twinkly hand gestures, or lying, with their faces happily pressed into another child’s shoe for Sleeping Bunnies. My two would sing at home, but as soon as we were out and about would just retreat to Mummy’s lap and stare aghast at all this public, moronic behaviour. Feeling a little embarrassed by this glum response I would then try to compensate by being triply eager, singing with gay abandon and hammily acting out all the actions. By the time my kids went to school and nursery I could have won a Grammy for those nursery rhyme performances.
Now, joy rapture, we have ‘normal’ music in the car on long journeys. We all sing along to a random selection of The Beatles, Crowded House, Michael Jackson, Disney showtunes and so on. One of my top musical moments in recent times was driving through the majesty of Glencoe, light bouncing off the mists in the distance, and all of us singing, at the very top of our lungs, ‘I want it that way’ by the Backstreet Boys. Oh yes, I do want it this way, forever please.