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Tales From The Crib

A song a day keeps kids at play

&

Mr. Fork, Fork, Mr. Golden Fork, please feed me some food,&

I sing to my 5-year-old and 4-year-old daughters at breakfast as I take two forks out of a drawer and have them dance toward the table. &

These little children are asking you, if you can come out and be a good dude...&

This rendition won&

t top the charts, and I&

m not even close to on key this early in the morning, but it does the trick. Hesperus and Athena giggle and eat their scrambled eggs, singing bites into their mouths. They are entertained by this just long enough for me to boil water for coffee and find a slice of dried mango for our 18-month-old son. Even my husband laughs.

Songs with made-up lyrics like &

Mr. Fork,&

Jimmy Hendrix&

s &

Purple Haze&

(my husband&

s addition to our family repertoire), and the folksy tunes my father used to sing to me (like &

Jump Down Turn Around Pick a Bale of Cotton&

) always help us get through the day.

My 5-year-old&

s favorite boo boo balm (to the tune of Baa Baa Black Sheep) is: &

Hesperus Wesperus, have you any tears? Yes Mommy, yes Mommy, running in my ears. One for my mommy and one for my dad, and one for the little girl in case she gets sad&

133;&

Athena&

s is a song that my mother-in-law made up for her when she was a fussy newborn. In the song&

s simple lyrics, &

No more cry-ing, no more cry-ing,&

and in being rocked and babied for just long enough for her to recover her preschool self, Athena finds great comfort.

We also sing our triumphs. When we lived on the East Coast, we would brave bramble and mosquitoes on our weekly hikes. While the baby stayed happy in his perch in the backpack, after an hour on the trail my daughters would start dragging their feet.

&

My legs are tired, Mommy,&

Athena whined one day. We stopped, ate a snack, and watched bugs scurry in and out of rock crevices.

&

Okay sweeties, let&

s go.&

I tried to sound energetic.

&

I&

m too tired Mommy,&

Hesperus looked like she would never move again.

&

Me too!&

agreed Athena.

It wasn&

t until it finally occurred to me to suggest a singing game that they agreed to budge. I explained that I would sing one line and they would sing it back to me. &

I don&

t know but I&

ve been told,&

I chanted as we started climbing again. They echoed the words and our voices rang through the tall pines and stately maples. &

The path we&

re on is made of gold.&

Soon I found myself resorting to nonsense lyrics (&

Well Hesperus&

s eyes are chocolate brown&

133; and she looks with them around and around&

) but the girls didn&

t seem to mind.

When the trees finally cleared and we were suddenly surrounded by breathtaking views of the New England countryside, we all broke out into Dora&

s victory song: &

We did it, we did it, we did it, hooray! Lo hicimos.&

And it was only by singing &

One hundred bottles of milk on the wall&

all the way down to zero at the top of our lungs (with me carrying Athena partway on my shoulders) that we made the trip down without any tears.

I loved to sing as a child. But in sixth grade when I wasn&

t chosen for the small chorus I started to believe that I did not have a nice voice and I stopped singing aloud.

But my children like to hear me sing, whatever the song and however the delivery. Sometimes Hesperus even asks me to repeat songs that I have made up for them and later can&

t remember. &

Sing the one about the cars and trucks and dollies,&

she commands, and she prompts me by singing it herself.

At lunch Athena crawls under the table to retrieve her fallen fork. On the way back to her chair she knocks her head and starts wailing. I put the baby down, pick her up, and kiss her head. Then I sing, &

&

Round and &

145;round the mulberry bush the table chased the Athena. &

145;Thena stopped to pick up her carrot and bump goes Athena!&

Athena wails again, with laughter this time, and is soon ready to finish her food.

sings badly from her home in Ashland. She is the editor of &

Toddler: Real-Life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love&

(Seal Press). Her new book, &

Why Babies Do That,&

(Willow Creek Press) comes out this fall.