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.
If by “kind of” you agree we can mean 128%.
Oh, dear gawd, that must be where he gets it.