Life has been emotionally overwhelming lately, so this post is a series of random free associations with (mostly) a theme. Maybe it will work best if you think of them like little stones you can tuck in your pocket, skip across the water, or nudge with your toe. (Ok, that was kind of rose-colored and presumptive, huh? Maybe these musings are more like rocks in your shoes. Yesterday while I waited for the elevator at the doctor, I realized my left foot hurt and dumped out my shoe to find…dry cat food…which, as it turns out, feels like rocks when it’s been placed, in large amounts, in your shoes by a toddler. But I digress.)
Last month, I said I wasn’t sure I could be a good parent in a messy house.
Thank goodness for a person’s right to change her mind.
My toddler daughter and I spent the better part of an hour simultaneously building a fort in the living room and dismantling it in a hilarious game of flop-and-dive. We were having so much fun, we started laughing…full-body uproarious laughter. I laughed so hard I literally did cry, and while I was sobbing I looked at the amazing chaos of our small living room and thought:
Maybe I CAN be a good parent in a messy house (some of the time).
Because if mess equals freedom to play, and freedom equals a space to be joyfully yourself — your whole, messy, flop-and-dive self — then the mess is not just okay, but necessary. Maybe the space to play wholeheartedly, without worrying about making a mess, is something good I can give my daughter.
Music Education & Doing it Badly
Tonight I went to Parent Education Night at Music Together, a musical immersion class that my daughter and I are enjoying this semester.
Here are a few musical facts:
FACT #1. I LOVE music. Not just a little. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I am always singing or humming or making up new kid-friendly words to some inappropriate tune (SuperFuss to the tune of SuperFreak, for example).
I discovered the magic of transition songs, so now I have scientific proof (or a Waldorf blessing, which might be stronger) that my incessant warbling is helpful. My 18-month-old and I sing our way to and from naptime, dressing, changing diapers, making breakfast, feeding the cats, leaving the house.
FACT #2. I struggle to sing in tune. I struggle to clap in rhythm. Of my three sisters, I am the only one who has not sung in public, led worship, or had a solo. I have been told (more than once) that I am off key.
(Secretly, I have longed to sing in a choir — any choir — since I belted out “Turn on Your Heartlight” during third grade music assembly at Elmhurst Elementary School. Don’t tell anyone.)
So at the end of Parent Education Night, I turned to the very nice teacher next to me (not my regular teacher, no accountability – ha!) and asked if it really was true that I won’t ruin my daughter’s musical ability by constantly singing to her off key.
Vanessa (God bless you, Vanessa) answered me in the most wonderful way.
She said: well, if you wanted to teach your kid baseball, would you sit them down in front of a pro game? Or would you go out in the backyard and pitch the ball?
Ohhhh, right, that not-doing-it-perfectly-thing. I forgot.
In fact, Vanessa says that the MOST important thing is what I model for my daughter about music. Do I show her that making music is scary or fun? Intimidating or joyful? Open to everyone or only for the perfectly performing few?
Got it. HOORAY!
I sang all the way home, warbling joyfully.
Music as Spiritual Nourishment
Warbling in the car, I was reminded of my childhood friend and momrade, Shannon Friedman, who in this very wise comment, shared that one of her irreplaceable gifts to her son is music. She spends hours finding songs that will nurture her son’s spirit, his body-heart-mind-soul.
I realized that I love music, in large part, because it is my spiritual root. Music is my way in to knowing myself as beloved, as created-by-Love, as made-of-stardust. Even before I could pronounce the words, humming along as my mother sang in church and lit the candles on the Advent wreath was my introduction to the Holy, to Awe and Mystery.
I’m not as intentional as my friend Shannon in giving this gift to my daughter, but I could be. Music of all kinds can nourish our spirit, our soul. I was reminded of this by our dear friends, my daughter’s godparents, who gave us a bunch of CDs recently. I play them every day on the stereo in the kitchen.
Maybe Joy Is Where It’s At
I wonder if the theme in all of this musing about mess and music is Joy.
Joy is when the mess makes sense.
Joy is when the music doesn’t need to be on key.
Joy is the heart of the lesson, the best I can bring to this emotionally overwhelming toddler time of life.
HOORAY AGAIN! What a relief. Because while I struggle painfully with happy (such hard work, navigating disappointments and expectations), I’ve got joy.
In fact, I’m just now remembering that I wrote a song about joy. During my first year of graduate school in January 2009, I walked along the coast under a winter sun. I watched the river tumbling rocks on their way to the sea. Freezing cold and exhilarated, I sang:
Sing for joy, O my soul
Leap for joy, O my soul
Sing for joy, Leap for joy
Leap for joy, O my soul
The river’s wide, O my soul
The river’s wild, O my soul
Wild and wide, the river flows
The river flows, O my soul
God is wide, O my soul
God is wild, O my soul
Wild and wide, God is light
God is light, O my soul
The river’s joy, O my soul
God is joy, O my soul
You are joy, You are joy
You are joy, O my soul
So, how’s the music (and the mess) at your house?
P.S. After writing this, I noticed that warbling home in the car after Parent Ed Night was a “Perfect Moment Monday” (yes, today is technically Tuesday, but details, details…whatever). Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Everyone is welcome to join. Peruse more perfect moments on Lori’s blog or add your own.