If there was one thing I knew while I was pregnant with Tiny, it was that, whatever I did, I would encourage him to love and play music.  I had no other clear parenting aim - other than to just do the best I could and to try not to drive him into therapy too early in life - but I promised myself that I would always sing to him, and that he would grow up surrounded by music.

Now, I am no great musician.  I sing reasonably well, can read music, and I played the violin for all of my school years.  Nonetheless, music has moved, sustained, healed, carried, accompanied and shaped me; without it, I would be a paler creature indeed.  It is also a central, shared love of my family; a place of common ground.

So I sang.  I can't remember when it started exactly (those first days are a streaky blur), but gradually, rustily, somewhat shyly, I sang.  Little ditties to show that nappy changes were a good and not an evil; jaunty sea shanties to make car rides less alarming; and, of course, lullabies to soothe and send to sleep.  In the haze and uncertainty of new parenthood, some days it felt like the best I could offer.  Gradually, it was clear that he was responding to my offerings.  Car-seat fretting stopped at the onset of a rousing rendition of What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor; bath time was calmed (for both of us) with a half-remembered version of Rubber Ducky; and I could feel like Super Mum whenever I sang him gently to sleep.

Tiny in his faux leather recliner, kicking back and listening to the classics.

Later, my OTL turned to his clarinet as a Toddler Entertainment Device, and discovered it to be a world of wonder for the Tiny amongst us.  At first, just taking it apart and putting it back together again was one of life's great joys.  Before long, though, Tiny learned that Dad's occasional toots could also become recognisable songs. Oh, the magic.

Over time, it was clear that music was seeping into him.  By the time he could utter his first words (and thus his first verbal demands) music was high on the list of requests.  He began to talk in about May this year.  By the time he was surrounded by grandparents for our trip to Newfoundland in June, he was readily able to order "Song!" (said with an endearing hard g) whenever a capable adult entered the room.  We sang for hours on all road trips (short and long), at the dinner table, on walks to see the ducks, even at the hairdresser.  We were pushed to remember every nursery rhyme, every lullaby, every ditty, and, yes, every sea shanty we had ever learned.  And, as is the way with the toddler, the repeated request (so important for their learning but so interminable and, let's be honest, unbearable for the parents) had us all groaning and eye rolling before launching back in to another round of whatever the song was of the moment. For many, many, many moments that song was The Farmer in the Dell.  Or, "FARMER IN DELL!! FARMER IN DELL!!" as the order normally went.

We seem to have come a long way in the short months between then and now.  He now talks in short sentences and has become obsessed with the children's music CDs I first played in the car in a desperate attempt one day to avoid singing The Farmer in the (bloody) Dell.  We can't go anywhere now without, "CD ON!! Pwease, Mummy."  (I taught him to say please; it lessens the pain somewhat of the chirpy, smiley, simple children's music which can sometimes make me want to grip the steering wheel a little too tightly.)

One of our great joys though, is his desire to hear his Dad nut out nursery rhymes on the clarinet.  "Carinet!  Carinet!" goes the cry (he is yet to master the difficult letter "L").  Once it has been assembled and a warm up scale whizzed through, the requests begin.  "London Bwridge!" "Aiken Dwrum!" "Grand [Old Duke of] York!" and, of course, "Farmer in Dell!"  What we hadn't realised was that while he was carefully mastering the classics (nursery rhymes that is), he'd also had one ear trained on his Dad's private practise sessions.  One day when the requests were coming thick and fast, he surprised us both with a call for "Cry Me River!"  Well, we'll be darned (and were - darned that is).

While not traditionally grouped with Baa Baa Black Sheep, or Incy Wincy Spider, Cry Me a River is now part of the playlist.  Sometimes I sing it (over breakfast, changing a nappy - he doesn't mind), other times he prefers the reedy tones of the clarinet.  I don't know that this augurs well for a carefree life of skipping through daisies with little heartbreak (as his mother would wish), but at least he's working on the beginnings of a fabulous soundtrack that can accompany him through life's ups and downs.  It's surely going to come in more handy than The Farmer in the Dell.

Turn it up.


  1. Paraphrasing cousin Xavier - More this please...!! and Oh YES!! I was determined Edie would know singing when she was born, so many renditions of this and Toorallooralloraal before she was born, and blow me down if she didn't go off to sleep to them as a newby. I hope she has as much of a connection as Tiny does...

  2. LOL, what an awesome read. Little Miss S is also singing happily now and requests music by saying "sing". I think I sang more to H, though, with the 2nd one I got kind of lazy and turned to the CD player and the beloved but evil DVD player. The result is that S can now sing the Bob-the-Builder song. I've officially failed as a parent :)