Since he was in the womb, my son seemed moved by music. The hubs would introduce some tunes into his high-definition headphones and place them across my belly. Tiny Jrue would lay heavy against one side, my belly deforming to the right in the shape of the baby’s back, and go still, as if relaxing or taking a nap. As a 3-month-old baby, Jrue would stare off, spellbound, when daddy put those same headphones over his little ears…at 8 months, Jrue would clap and smile and bounce up and down on his thighs to the beat.
As his memory improved and he aged into the toddler years, we learned that Jrue could pick up the lyrics to a jingle quickly: radio commercials, television advertisements, music from the MP3, TV theme songs—no melody was too difficult for him to at least hum the notes to. We were in awe of his ability to remember music after one listen. We knew it was time to enhance this talent and to walk the direction he was taking us all in.
Last summer, I found a “Mommy and Me” style music class that had several locations and pricing options in our area. By that time, Jrue had memorized and remixed numerous versions of “The ABC Song,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and “Twinkle Twinkle…” with “Bingo,” “Old MacDonald,” and “The Wheels on the Bus,” so much so that the rhymes would play repeatedly in my head as I attempted to sleep at night. When I started manually composing remixes at work for Jrue, I knew we had to enroll him in something creatively engaging, on the double!
What better way to build his memory and appeal to his musical inclinations than to join a music class designed specifically for children ages 18 months to 3 years? I was hooked to the idea nearly instantly. To save money in the rare case Jrue did not like going to the class, we signed up for a 4-week segment, as opposed to the regular 10-week course, so that he could adjust and show us that the money was worth spending.
Attending music class was a hit. I helped Jrue learn his 20-something downloaded song collection in a weekend with frequent plays. After the first session, through which he mostly stared at everyone like they were aliens, Jrue joined in the singing and dancing with the other children and their parents. His favorite moment each week came when the group leader brought out instruments for us to “free play” to the music.
Jrue and I were sad when the month was over. I vowed to do a 10-week session with him our next financially-ready occasion, which came just before Christmas.
I am an advocate for creative childhood play and activity. I believe that caretakers should facilitate children involvement in as much participation as realistically possible, within the constraints of budget, energy, and time, of course. “Creative experiences can help children express and cope with their feelings. . . .Creativity also fosters mental growth in children by providing opportunities for trying out new ideas, and new ways of thinking and problem-solving,” according to the PBS article “Creativity and Play: Fostering Creativity.” Taking my toddler to a music class every weekend also served a sometimes much-needed bonding opportunity for the two of us. Mommy often received “free” cardio within the movements of many songs, and Jrue simultaneously socialized with a diverse group of children.
As we near the end of our latest class session, I reflect on all of the really funny moments we experienced and all of the comparisons I could benchmark into a music class performance review, much in the way human resources personnel administer an assessment to post-probationary employees in a company.
The one element I truly relish about Jrue’s involvement in a formalized music program is what I have dubbed “the fun factor.”
What’s “the fun factor?”
The children in the music classes make each session almost hysterical in this singular way: if one viewed the 1965 film, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” one would happen upon a scene of about 8 children (plus 2 children, and a dog, on instruments) dancing frenetically to “Linus & Lucy” by The Vince Guaraldi Trio. This scene has become a cult classic all its own over the decades because of the pure imagery of the dancing. It exemplifies the freedom young children have when music that they like comes on: movements can be rigid, floppy, repetitive, rigorous, chippy. Usually, watching kids really “get down” is pretty hilarious. The animation in this scene does not disappoint, even years and years later.
Put these kids into real life and see Jrue’s music class every week.
The music begins and the babies lose their minds. Or, I’d say, lose control of their bodies. It’s such a sight of complete autonomy. Joyful abandonment. Absolute jubilation. Unbridled euphoria.
The teacher must anticipate that dancing on this level occurs each session. This particular mom was not ready and, during our first class after the teacher announced a “stand-up song” and we got to our feet in preparation, it took me a second not to double over in laughter when the music started. Some of the little people just spun around. Some of the veterans knew the moves and executed the most fabulous footwork to come from an office Christmas party. Some used “big arms,” some worked hips and bottoms, and all took their dancing to the next tier. They did not…care…and the fabulousness of that, even while so young, is off all scales in a world of citizens so often overly concerned with the way we publicly look.
I had to lead my little guy, so I did what most parents perform from time to time: I shook it. Shook it well. Jrue followed. We fit right in. Every week, this became what I, personally, looked forward to: The living “Charlie Brown” kids providing a surprise and ethereal “fun factor” that is indescribable on a music class website.
Sometimes the unknown, least expected experiment is the most pleasing and the sweetener to something refreshing. My toddler son is able to indulge in music that is welcoming him towards the preschool years, and I entered an unforgettable moment into my ledger of motherhood.
I suppose we have daddy’s headphones to thank for starting this.
PBS.org. “Creativity and Play: Fostering Creativity.” The Whole Child, n.d., http://www.pbs.org/wholechild/providers/play.html. Accessed 2 Feb. 2017.
Sparkman, Courtney. “7 Tips On Conducting A Security Officer Performance Review.” OfficerReports.com, n.d., http://www.officerreports.com/blog/7-tips-on-conducting-a-security-officer-performance-review/. Accessed 1 Feb. 2017.