In no particular order

My children are adorable. I love spending time with them. I do not love spending 13 uninterrupted hours with them. I love when they play together. I do not love when they fight. I love that when they laugh at the same time, my every cell soars and no finer music has ever been composed. I do not love that they conspire to do terrible things to, near, and for me.

I’m having a hard time reconciling all those love/do not loves.

The eldest is an intense child. Very intense. Highly spirited, in the language of those who have to buy books about how intense their intense kids are just to cope with not harming either the intense kid or themselves. So what, you ask? So I have a dilemma. This intense child is, like many children, quite attached to routine. Bedtime, for example, is dinner, bath, jammies, teeth, books, bed, lights out, songs. In that order only. When we forget teeth and brush them after books, there are tears. When we have time for everything but books, there are major tears.

And the songs are always his choice. From 9 months to 18 months, we were only allowed to sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat and Five Little Ducks. If we switched songs, changed lyrics, or skipped a song, the resulting fit shook the walls. From 18 months to 2 years, we could only sing Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald Had a Farm. No variation allowed. From 2 years to almost 3 years we were assigned from a small group of songs that included Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, and Rockabye Baby (in which we changed all the lyrics to be about the names of the people who loved him instead of that creepy story about falling babies).

And from 3 years on, we’ve been forced to sing Five Little Ducks and Five Green and Speckled Frogs. Every night. In the same order, without variation. Even the slightest change in tune has him in tears. Varying the lyrics makes him scream. Seriously. Same two song for more than three years. By my math that’s 5480 ducks who went over the hills and far away but eventually returned. And 5480 frogs that ate bugs then jumped off the log.

That’s a lot of fathermucking ducks and frogs, yo.

So I proposed to Peanut, dear, sweet, intense, infuriatingly stubborn little Peanut that, come his sixth birthday, we change songs. He started to lose it, so I said we’d talk about it later. And sang my assignment. The next night I reminded him about changing. He started to cry and I reassured him I didn’t mean tonight, but that soon it would be time. Then I didn’t mention it again.

About a week later I asked him how he felt about turning Six. I expected thoughts on school or skateboards or being older in general. I expected excitement about a party or gifts or privileges.

He said he didn’t want to turn Six. Why? Because, he said, he didn’t want to change songs.

Judas Priest, Internet. I’m tired of these goddamned songs. And I’m only tasked with one of them: when we’re both home, I sing Ducks and Spouse sings Frogs. Always Ducks first and Frogs second and don’t even ask or he’ll cry. If I’m the only one home, I sing both, but Peanut cries through the whole thing because he misses Daddy. That much intense emotion would be tenderly wonderful if it wasn’t driving me to drink. Three years of the same song, yo. Three. YEARS. Every night. Without exception. Ever.

He’s not this stubborn about anything else. We go through stores without fights about buying things. He leaves the playground easily most of the time, and calmly after a discussion even when he doesn’t want to. He accepts change to routine for all manner of reasons and shakes off surprises and disappointment very well.

I’ve moved through the Kubler-Ross stages of hating children’s songs: Fun, Frustration, Renewed Vigor, Resignation. Now I’m approaching a sensation I never felt during the six months of Goodnight Moon, nor the year of Richard Scarry, nor the weeks and weeks and weeks of Blueberries for Sal. I’m getting to the Stage professionals in the parenting game call the Seething Rage of Song Hatred. (Okay, they might not. I haven’t had time to read several books about the parenting dilemma of the week. I haven’t even had time to read the fortune I got in a cookie last month.)

I’ve tried singing in a silly voice, but that makes him cry. I’ve tried changing the words, but that makes him cry. I’ve tried just clenching my teeth and making it through, but I can only be gently nurturing for so long when the script does not vary.

I’m at the point where I don’t want those effing ducklings to come back, ever. I want to introduce a chorus about getting lost or eating poisoned worms or getting shot by a hunter or something, just to break the pattern and end the Ducks’ Reign of Terror.

But I can’t. I’m nice. I want my son’s sleep process to be free from fear or coercion or trauma. There are too many “No” and “stop, please” and “we can’t” in his days. I want songs to be his happy way to end the day.

But I’m getting close to going postal on those ducks. And that’s saying a lot, because I’m kind of a bleeding heart vegetarian type.
Kind of.
If by “kind of” you agree we can mean 128%.

Oh, dear gawd, that must be where he gets it.

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19 thoughts on “In no particular order

    • @kristin…YES! Especially if the slaughter can’t be traced back to me.
      I’ll send you all the baby carriers and a CD of Frogs and Ducks looped over and over and over and over…

  1. How is Peanut going to cope when he’s an adult and really, really wants something and can’t have it?

  2. He copes really well with “no.” Especially with other people. It is only with songs that he is apoplectic if we want to change. And really, lullabies are his time, so it’s the tiny realm he *can* control. He doesn’t get toys at stores, he can’t always choose our activities. But dagnabit, that boy will control bedtime songs.

  3. I’m grateful for the previous comment, where you explain that it’s only bedtime songs that prompt these frenzies, and that he accepts “no” in other aspects of his life. I’m sure that must be driving you crazy, but you can be grateful his mania is just confined to that one area.

    • Matt, were you worried that we were totally permissive and letting him rule the household with tantrums? No way.

      We respect him and he’s a full-privileges member of the family, but we don’t work for him. He’s an intense guy, and has strong feelings. And he’s a kid, so he certainly has moments of wanting more than he can have. And we give him what he needs and what is reasonable if he can calmly articulate his desires. If we haven’t started preparing dinner and he asks for something healthy, I’ll make it for everyone. If he wants to go somewhere or do something that fits in our grand schemes, no problem. He gets compromises and choices and some unwavering “No way”s. A pretty good balance for him, for us, and for future adulthood.

      But boy oh boy with those songs.

  4. i had a cd in my car with africa’s “toto” on it 28 times so i didn’t have to push repeat. it was that or laura branigan’s “gloria”. or i had to sing the alphabet. for four years. but it wasn’t at bed only when we drove which was torture so i only did it when i had to. since then it’s still my goto top 3 if i need to get the mayhem to stop when we’re on the road. #2 would only let me sing “a few of my favorite things” but in complete 180 degree opposite fashion it only lasted a few months. good thing cause it’s hard to sing one verse of that and one of africa, that made them both cry…. may the force be with you christine and may we still have some brain matter left to enjoy them when they are astrophysicists.

    • Tara, I’m really sorry to laugh, but Toto and Brannigan? Were your children raised in the early 80s? No, which would suggest you played those easy listening tunes at least once when the children were of formative age. And since I can’t judge, given what I’ve played my children (Duran Duran’s Wild Boys is on the evening’s dance playlist before bath most nights), I will only say, “I hope it’s gotten better, and at least the ABC song, a favorite here as well, will get them ahead in life.”
      Right?

  5. Oh, didn’t you know? When you turn six, you actually lose the license to have those songs sung to you anymore, and all songs to be sung in the future also come with limited licenses. It’s a crappy side-effect of growing up, but that’s life, kid. There’s a petition going around, and you bet your bippy that Daddy and I have signed it and forwarded it to all of our friends, but this is really beyond our control. Now, while we’re on the topic of growing up, there’s this concept you may not have heard of called “rent”…

    • LOL
      You know, Daryl, I *still* recall and use your advice on whining, the sincere and pleading, “I would love to help you; I’m just itching to help you but I can’t understand you.” Such obsequiousness gets me far, and makes me remember that we’re not alone. There are others. With petitions.
      I might try it. We still have a few weeks. Maybe the kindergarten teacher could do a day’s lessons on the rules that change when you’re 6? I’ll ask the other parents to submit a list.

  6. I’ve been thinking about this ever since reading it before.

    (Sorry that you have had to sing those same things a gabillion times. Your patience is noteworthy!)

    What would happen if you gradually shifted the responsibility for singing those songs to Peanut? So that he sings them to you for awhile, then maybe HE will get sick of them? ;)

    • Inky, it’s worth a try. He doesn’t sing, like, ever, so we’ll see what he thinks. I’ll make it sound like butterscotch covered marshmallows, this singing plan. Then I’ll report back.

  7. I feel like I should be able to help with this one, as I spent 6 and a half years with my last show. That means 8 shows a week X 52 X 6.5. (Give or take a vacation or two.) Same songs, same dialogue. Your ideas for making a song and script feel fresh and new are much more creative than my own, but might have resulted in a pink slip.

    In all seriousness, we have the same routine in our house. They do like structure, don’t they? Thank God Mamma has a touch of OCD herself! I have a hard time mixing it up! But, your ducky song sounds fun. We may try to throw it in to our repertoire…unless it is as addictive as you say.

    P.S.
    this comment was accidentally placed under a previous entry of yours. Anyone reading would be rather confused.

    • Well, Emily, I wish you luck in your routines. I don’t mind rigid ritual. I rather like that they know what to expect and relish that. It’s the lack of variation in the one creative bit of the night. He lets us change what we do/talk about/sing when we brush teeth. He accepts that sometimes there’s one story instead of two. But whew with those songs.

  8. Would it be wring to reminisce about a roommate who would scream out in what sounded like agony when Joe Montana or Steve Young was sacked?

    • Hmmm. Not so much wrong as…look! Over there! It’s a something something. Go look over there. Nothing to see here.

      I think your roommate’s insistence on waking every morning to the same two bars of the world’s worst song might be apropos here. If you weren’t looking over at that fascinating thing.

  9. And I know you don’t want to hear this. I know you probably won’t believe this. But in about 13 years, truly just a short time away, you’re going to find yourself humming these songs and wishing you could crawl back into that moment just one more time. Sigh.

  10. fathermucking. that’s a new one. i like!

    i have a vision of you pre-recording the perfect version of both of these songs, sung by both you and spouse, pushing play at song time, getting your evening cocktail, drinking said cocktail during duck time, tucking in a particular peanut, shutting the door after a peck on the forehead.

    goodnight.

  11. Oh, Jane, I *do* want to hear that. I’m keenly aware, in the good and bad moments that they’re slipping away. And it’s hard to reconcile. I’m trying to be mindful and present and patient and generous. And it still feels like I’ll forget all this too soon. (sigh echoed)

    JulieG! See how technology makes everything easier? When I get my own sitcom and put all this in it, your idea is *exactly* how this will all be handled.

    goodnight.

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