“My foster mom didn’t sing”

I stop humming. I look at her. I take a deep breath and ask: “would you prefer I stopped singing?” “Yes” she answered slightly embarrassed, quietly. 

It’s not the first time she tells me to stop singing. Ever since I met her. I blatantly disregarded her request when I used to drive her back to the foster family, at night. 

We took her back at night, as the child protection rules guided our time together, during the month of incipient attachment. 

She then got familiar and comfortable with a handful of songs. She requested them often after that.

With jackie, singing was a wonderful way to connect further and pass the time. And also to help her brain develop further through music. Jackie never asked me to stop singing. A good reminder that kids are different. Nobody asked me to stop singing actually. Maybe just my brother asked me to stop talking when I was a teenager, and he hurt my feelings. And I stopped talking. 

Yesterday as I sang to ivy at bedtime, she seemed deeply sad. I asked her if the sound of music makes her feel sad. She nodded. 

You know how music can touch a sensitive chord and it makes you weep without a clear reason? I wonder if she doesn’t care for music or she is too sensitive to sound, or it reminds her of something painful. 

She likes rhythm and funky music. She like children songs, once she learns them. 

Meanwhile, she tells me not to sing. She stops me if I’m humming; and lately she alludes to her non-musical past. 

I have to wonder what hides beneath the surface. And if she’ll ever feel differently about music. Once we go to church again, I can’t wait to worship off the top of my lungs. Hopefully she’ll learn some songs and associate them with a safe joyful feeling.

As I wrote this I listened to an excellent talk about anxiety. Anxiety we feel in our body before we can articulate it with words. Also, kids can get anxious on their own, and their anxiety can trigger discomfort in the parents who have unsolved issues with anxiety or have a hard time sitting with discomfort, with uncomfortable feelings. 

Anyway, my take away from the talk was the to practice curiosity with our kids. To ask good noninvasive questions in order to understand and not project our own expectation on them. Like: “How do you feel about this or that? What do you plan to do? How can I help you?”

Practicing curiosity without assumptions, takes intentionality. Restraint. Courage. 

Doing what needs to be done, even when kids fight it, while keeping our cool and calm manner, is as important as acknowledging when our spouse does the hard work of parenting and nobody but us is there to acknowledge their bravery and sacrifice and patience. Parents can easily be discourage or beat down every day of parenting. We win some, we lose some. Most of our investment becomes apparent much later in life. But to keep going, we have our band of parents, friends, grandparents, spouse, to acknowledge and validate. So the next day we can get up and do it all over again.