The cacophony of sounds and squeals drowns every other sound within a short radius of the room. It nearly bursts my ear drums. I should be used to it by now but I am not. I don’t want to be. There is something wonderfully unpredictable about the type of sound that demands the most attention on any given Monday and I want to be taken by surprise by that sound. I want to notice the peculiar noise that attracts my attention the most. After all, if a child is going at it with that much enthusiasm, the least I can do is somewhat appreciate the loudness of the instrument and the glee of that child.
I started taking TJ to Music Together classes when he was 22 months old. I was almost 8 months pregnant. You should know that even after having become a stay-at-home-mom officially for about 5 months by then, I was yet to come to terms with that identity and quite frankly, I am yet to come to terms with it completely even now, another 9 months later.
As a result of my self-pity and despite the fact that I had enthusiastically signed him up for this, I absolutely hated it.
At first I had imagined it to be something where the kids get to engage with music in whatever form the teacher taught it while accompanying parents get to take a backseat, sit by the walls of the room and relax while keeping a watchful eye on their kids. I was unpleasantly surprised that I actually had to participate in the shenanigans.
Sitting with my child on my lap or by my side, with a pregnant belly that had swelled to a good size by then, and with all the identity conflicts going on inside of me, I found my professional identity getting crushed little by little with every lyric, rhyme, and note.
It was excruciating to walk, hop, jump, skip, or run around the room with only a half-interested TJ, pretending I was enjoying what was going on for his sake while a little bit of me kept dying on the inside.
I couldn’t help but think what a huge waste of time and money my getting a doctorate had been if all I was meant to do was participate in useless “dance” movements and repeat paa pa pa-pa-pa-pa after the instructor. All my education, publications, presentations in classrooms and conferences, working to make a difference in the classroom and in the communities in which I lived, my entire professional being was worthless sitting in that room with other moms and kids humming and forcing awkward contortions out of TJ and myself as steps to the songs. Talk about a massive ego!
To be clear, I wasn’t hating on the other people in the room or the Music Together program itself. I was just angry at the situation that had now come to become mine and that despite my own initiative to enroll my son, I found mind-numbing and even partly humiliating.
To add to the aggravation, TJ was at the stage of his life where he loved hoarding. No matter what the instrument, whether they were the music shaker eggs, drumsticks, scarves, or what have you, I would have a tough time separating them from TJ’s hands once we were done. The instructor was incredible though. She never yanked it out of his hand or make me do it. She, better than me, understood that it was a developmental thing and that when he was ready, he would give it up. Eventually, I would trick him out of whatever he was holding on to and return it to her baskets. Still, it was sometimes embarrassing to be a hoarder’s mother.
Furthermore, as I got bigger and bigger (I kept going until the 39th week of pregnancy after which TJ’s grandparents took him to his last two weeks of class before the session concluded), it was increasingly difficult to participate. I could no longer jump or run around much although I tried to do everything I possibly could just so TJ wouldn’t feel left out of the fun that the other kids seem to be having.
Eventually, as I began to see a distinct musical awareness in TJ, I did learn to enjoy and appreciate these classes (more on this in a future post).
Last month, I enrolled TJ again. The classes are held every Monday this session. Also, thank my luck stars, TJ is now at an age where he no longer hoards his instruments. Once we are done with it, he returns the “toys” as he calls them back into the instructor’s basket.
The added perk this time is that Baby E gets to tag along for free as siblings under 1 year of age are allowed to come in and hang out too. Two for the price of one! Can’t beat that :).
Although Baby E has always been a part of this Music Together experience since being in the womb and all, she now gets to enjoy and hopefully appreciate it in person. Meanwhile, I get to watch TJ as he goes over to the baskets of musical instruments and grab three of everything, one for each one of us, including his sister. I get to see him randomly kiss his sister on her fingers and toes, oblivious to being in a public place and only innocently aware of being with his special buddy for life – his sister, and the love he has for her.
Of course, I also get to watch Baby E put everything in her mouth – and then I get to see TJ take the extra loved instruments and put them in a separate basket to be cleaned later. I get to see a toddler who now totally and completely participates and engages with the music.
I have seen tremendous growth in TJ since we started Music Together. This is not only because he is almost 10 months older than when we first started these classes and he simply is developmentally able to process socialization and community behavior skills better but also because he truly enjoys music and now, he especially loves having his sister join him too.
What is your most disliked activity as a mother, stay-at-home or otherwise?