The summer after tenth grade I participated in an operetta.  Along with roughly one hundred other teens I graced the stage in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience”.  As I stood there holding a pink parasol and singing about being a maiden and milking cows I remember thinking, “This is ridiculous. No one sings her way through life.  If I were a real milkmaid I’d be perched on a bucket atop a pile of manure while rhythmically yanking a cow’s utters.” So each day in rehearsal as I pranced through this fictional reality I’d try to come up with some reason to sing (Some reason other than “Gilbert and Sullivan told me to”). During one rehearsal I pretended that I was a robot milkmaid who was programmed sing all the time. During another I imagined that I had a rare disease and the only cure was to utter aria after aria. In the end I never could get myself into the mindset. I made it through the run of the show, but walked away from the performance determined to devote all future theatrical pursuits to the non-musical variety. Life in verse was just way too inconceivable.

Then I had a child and the strangest thing happened. I began singing about everything.  At first it was mostly to sooth my own nerves. I’ d hum little ditties like:

I’m a good mommy my kid’s dressed and fed!

It’s been weeks and I’ve not dropped her once on the head.

Yay!

Next I sang to motivate my daughter.  We had a number about eating, and one about sharing. There was a song about dancing around naked, a song about diapers and one about cleaning. We even had a song to help us get through a good scrub-down in the tub. It featured a super hero washcloth who lived in the bath. It went:

I’m Squeezer, I’m Squeezer the bathwater sneezer.

I fill up with liquid just like I’m a cup.

I’m Squeezer, I’m Squeezer, the bathwater sneezer

If you are dirty I’ll clean you right up!

With each new verse we’d dunk Squeezer (a washcloth) under water and then ring him out over our daughter’s head. It was the only way we could pull of a bath.

But after a while the singing started happening all the time. I’d sing about making a left turn in the car or about peeling vegetables. I’d make up a musical number about our options for the day. I’d sing about the weather. Sometimes, I’d sing out little warnings like, “If you don’t pick up that mess. Mommy will be so depressed.” I bet if we had lived on a farm I would have sung about milking a cow too. I stopped worrying about making the words rhyme or maintaining any sort rhythm. I just wanted to keep the music going.

Then the other day my daughter started singing through life too. And just like that it’s as if I’m in an operetta all over again.  But this time it feels so right! It makes everything easier. Negotiations are simple when they’re sung; discipline is a breeze when trilling in a falsetto. Even tantrums become bearable if set to music. Just this very evening my daughter composed a whole song about refusing to go to bed. It was an instant classic. My husband and I have been humming it all night.

SO now I feel like I owe Gilbert and Sullivan an apology. I never should have been so dismissive.

They were right.

I’m guessing that they had children. I’m guessing they discovered that changing a poopy diaper and doing errands and distracting a toddler from an inevitable meltdown is all easier when set to a good melody. The fears, the tensions, the impatience, the insecurities all seem to slip away with song.

One day Sage is going to be utterly humiliated by my arias at the grocery store and my improvisational musicals about feces and nose picking. And when that happens, I’ll have to go crawling back to good old Gilbert and Sullivan, “I need an outlet,” I’ll say. “My kid is growing up. Give me some music to ease the pain.”

I only hope they’ll take me back.

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