‘Tis the season for thankfulness and counting blessings, and truth be told I’m feeling a little ungrateful this year. I shouldn’t be: my husband has a job, we have a home, food on the table, clothes on our backs. But my three and a half year old still isn’t talking, my whole family is recovering from a nasty virus, and I guess I’m just a little bah-humbug about the whole holiday season.
I don’t like feeling this way, so I’ve tried really hard to find something that, despite everything, continues to bring me joy. And that thing is music.
I’ve always loved listening to music, and so many of my memories have an accompanying soundtrack. I know this is the case for a lot of people. For me, that even included a lot of kid’s songs from my teenage days as a camp counselor. And so it was only natural that once I had kids I would want to share music with them.When my son was only a few months old, well before “delays” and “diagnosis” came into our lives, we started going to Music Together classes. We’ve continued ever since, my daughter joining us when she was born. Now just she and I attend while my son is in preschool. The CDs are on permanent rotation in the car and have stopped many an emerging temper tantrum.
My son, though he does not talk, does sing a lot. He is actually quite good, with his melodies easily recognizable. He sometimes approximates the words to the songs, and we will often pause at the end of phrases to get him to fill in the rest. But he is always humming and I love to hear his melodic voice. The other day, his teacher said he was getting tired and restless in the middle of the day. It was his first day back after being out with a cold and they were unable to play outside because of the rain. She took him back to the classroom, where he went over to the circle time rug, sat down, and started singing their goodbye song. He may not talk, but he used a song to communicate that he wanted to go home.
My daughter, younger but much more verbal than my son, also sings, though perhaps without the same natural ear for pitch. Her favorite song right now is the theme from Baby Signing Time, which basically goes “Baby, Baby, Baby Signing Time.” She sings it whenever she wants to watch a video. She also insists that we sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, which in her 20 month old voice sounds like “Winkoo, Winkoo” and though it may be out of tune is completely adorable.
We hope that music will be the key to unlocking the mysteries of communication for my son and have recently begun music therapy with him. I also hope that over time he can use his love of, and, I believe, talent for music as a confidence builder and social outlet in future years. For now, singing seems to be an easier way to connect with my son, and I can often get him to sing back to me when he can’t talk. So I’m always making up songs and chants. The words and melodies are simple, but for some reason when I can’t get him to say something like “more jumping,” I can get him to sing “jumping, jumping, jumping!” It’s a start.
My life is not at all where I thought it would be. My three year old has autism and that brings me down quite a bit. But music has been a path through which we can connect, and because of that there is music in my house all the time. And for that, I am most grateful.