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‘Sing’: The Words That Will Never Fail Her

By Chrissy Boylan (Special to The Washington Post: Monday, November 29, 2004; Page C08)

I used to balk at parents who claimed to see Picasso in their children’s artwork, or Mozart in their children’s piano playing. Pshaw, I would say.

Imagine my surprise, then, to realize that I had become a much worse mutation of such a parent. Instead of seeing genius in my child’s own doings (love is blind after all), I found the meaning of life in a “Sesame Street” song.

A couple of weeks ago my daughter chose the “Sesame Street” classic “Sing” as her new favorite song, at least as measured by the number of times I was made to listen to it in the car.

To be fair, the universe of songs from which my daughter can claim a favorite is relatively small. With no CD player in our car, we have to make do with the tired selection of tapes from our local drugstore, which means that my daughter and I drive around town listening to the same cassettes over and over (and over). It is also important to note that my daughter is a 2-year-old to whom “again” is not just a word but an imperative. She has brought it to a new level on a per-song basis. On a recent day trip to her grandparents’ house some 50 miles away, we listened to the same song the entire way there . . . and back.

As a matter of survival, I’ve trained myself to tune out as many songs as possible. If I concentrate hard enough, it all starts to sound like white noise.

Other times, I’ll find myself singing aloud to songs to which I didn’t even know I knew the words. Musical osmosis, I call it.

Then the other day something magical happened. After a full day of driving around town listening to my daughter’s new favorite song, I became desperate to make someone else share my pain. So after tucking my daughter soundly into bed that night, I cornered my husband and made him listen to me sing the entire song.

Sing, sing a song, Sing out loud, Sing out strong, Sing of good things not bad, Sing of happy not sad. Sing, sing a song, Make it simple to last your whole life long, Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear, Just sing, sing a song . . .

That’s when it happened! The synapses began firing in my brain and I heard the unmistakable beauty of the song for the very first time. I heard the metaphor so artfully woven throughout the lyrics: my daughter, as original and beautiful as any song ever composed.

By then, my husband had begun to look at me very curiously so I quickly retreated back into my head to review the song again with Big Bird and the rest of the “Sesame Street” gang. The innocence of the lyrics, the depth of their meaning (at least as I interpreted them), and the positive message they conveyed left me in awe. To think that all this time, as we drove to the grocery store, traveled to playgroup or even simply sat in traffic, my daughter was learning the meaning of life and the importance of nurturing her inner song.

Eventually my husband went back to whatever it was from which I had pulled him, yet I continued to sit there. I was wondering in an excited daze how much of the song my daughter actually understood. When she hears the “Sesame Street” ensemble of children singing “Sing out loud, sing out strong,” does she understand that they are telling her to be proud of who she is, and never to fear being herself to anyone? Or when they sing, “Make it simple to last your whole life long,” will she learn that life is too complicated ever to forget who she is, or to try to be someone she’s not?

If she does understand any of it, I remember thinking, please let it be the part when they sing, “Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing, sing a song.” Right there, in less than 20 words, was the number one lesson I hoped most for my daughter to learn earlier in life than I had — that it doesn’t matter what others think, only what she thinks of herself. I climbed into bed that night, closed my eyes and smiled at the vision of my daughter sitting happily in her car seat la-la-ing away to the song. I decided that although she may not understand the underlying message of the song now, the important thing is that someday she might.

In the meantime, I’ll hear it for both of us . . . most likely tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that, over and over (and over).

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