There are a million and one things you can do with your child, from the moment they enter the world, to enrich their little lives. I'm not talking about the book reading, park walking, or sensory explorations that we can come up with on our own or by devouring board after Pinterest board. No, this is the day and age of classes, the kind that you can find at the local YMCA, your library, the gym, community centers....basically everywhere. You can take your tot to cooking classes, ballet, gymnastics, soccer, art, any hobby your heart desires, ALMOST FROM THE TIME OF THEIR BIRTH! It gets a little exhausting, honestly, when you think about all of the options. I never wanted to be the mom who tailored a schedule that would be just right for my son, because I secretly hoped that I would be on top of things enough to craft the most wonderful home life for him, complete with occasional field trip to a children's museum or the beach. He wouldn't need classes to have a fulfilling toddlerhood, of course!
Unsurprisingly, it hasn't exactly turned out this way. As it happens, my boy actually does need a bit more structure and activity in his life, more than I can provide even if I were especially great at planning ahead and being productive, which I am most definitely not. By far the most exciting and rewarding of all of the things we have tried have been our Music Together classes.
I find myself struggling to write from the heart, even on this most personal of places, my own blog, but it's difficult to truly convey just how much Music Together has meant to our little family. You can check out their site here to get an idea of the program itself, but a good way to describe it might be to say it's a teacher-facilitated, child-driven, parent participation-based music class. It's not what you might expect, because there is not a great deal of organization to each class, and it's certainly not an adorable band of children singing in tune. Instead, each individual class is based around ten or so songs from that particular session. The whole program is divided into nine instrument-based sessions, as shown in the photo above. The music collection for each session contains approximately 25 songs, which are given on a CD along with a songbook to each family at the beginning of the session. This allows for us to listen to the music at home and become more and more familiar with it. During class, the teacher goes through the chosen songs of the day, leading the group in singing them and supplementing with a variety of mediums to bring out music in the children, from a basket of instruments to wooden sticks to multi-colored egg shaker maracas. It is adamantly stressed that parents not coerce their children into singing and/or movement, but to allow that part to happen naturally. Thus, at this particularly young age (2-3), the children are often prancing about the room, sitting quietly in a parent's lap, or even observing from afar, waiting until they are ready to join in.
My little A was unsure about music in the beginning, but he absolutely loves it now. We are on our fifth session (including a bonus summer session which consisted of a collection of "hits" from the primary sessions) and it has made such a difference in his life! He absolutely loves the music, and while he's not a singer yet, his sense of rhythm and movement have greatly improved since we began. It has provided a way to increase his language skills, given him comfort in the form of night time lullabies, and brought a lot of joy to his little heart. I have always believed in the power and significance of music to a person's growth and development-even as an adult music can be an incredibly transformative thing. I am elated at what a wonderful introduction A has had.
I'm going to end this rather sub-par post with a slightly funny, albeit sobering quote from a book I read this summer. Side note: I read so. many. good. books and I desperately need to write a good post sharing all of them. Anyway, despite my deep love and appreciation for Music Together I have to confess two things. One, we are besotted with our teacher and have only attended her classes, so I can't be certain it's as amazing an experience with just any teacher. I also feel compelled to share that it's quite the expensive endeavor, and one that would be borderline ridiculously costly if one was taking more than one child to class. I knew that they were a privilege, but it wasn't until the topic came up in a particularly delicious beach read, You Should Have Known, in the conversation between two Upper West Side Manhattan mothers, that I really grasped what I've been enjoying for so long (for context, in case you couldn't figure it out: Hilda is a nanny).
"You still take him to his lessons?" said Sally, with the faintest whiff of disapproval. "God, if I took my kids everywhere myself, I'd never do anything else. Two of them do gymnastics, and there's piano and ballet and fencing. Plus Djuna, of course. She only does Music Together and Gymboree, but you know, the fourth go-round with Gymboree? I couldn't take it anymore, so Hilda goes. The moms were like, 'Oh, my baby's so special because she slid down the slide!' I keep wanting to say, 'The is my fourth kid, and I hate to tell you, but gravity makes them all slide down the slide.' And I almost lost it so many times in Music Together, I finally told Hilda she had to do that one, too. I feel I've been shaking the same egg maraca for a decade."
Yikes. Hopefully I won't grow to resent the egg maracas and the Remo drums.