It took my son a long time to learn how to sing.
I don’t mean it took him a long time to get good at it–I don’t know any four-year-olds who are good at singing, though I’m sure a quick trip to YouTube would find a fair few of them–I mean, he didn’t understand the concept.
When he was eight months old, I enrolled him in a Kindermusik class. At this point, I had no idea how severe some of his limitations were, though he’d had a rough start to life. He wasn’t making much progress toward crawling but he could sit up on his own. He had a flat spot on his head from his constant insistence on looking right while he slept, though there was nothing physically forcing that decision (believe me, I researched the crap out of it) but I had sort of gotten used to it, and I was working toward making it better. I knew he would be a little different than a lot of the kids, but I didn’t realize how different.
Every other kid in that class was stronger than he was, even the tiniest. Every other kid was moving more, making more noise, and engaging with the teacher in ways that my son was not.
We stayed in class for a couple of months, hoping each week that he would catch up with the others, but it was like they were running while he sat and examined his toes. Plus, everyone else was breastfeeding and had this bond over after-class nursing sessions; though my son was drinking breast milk, he had never thrived through nursing alone and so he took a bottle. I sat in the corner, hoping to be absorbed into the conversation somehow, but the only one who would talk to us was the teacher and that seemed to be out of obligation.
Eventually, we decided it was too expensive a way to deplete my confidence each week.
At that point in our lives, Kindermusik might or might not have been right for us; because I didn’t stick it out particularly long, it’s difficult to say. We were going through so much then–in the next year-and-a-half our son was diagnosed with epilepsy, then hypoglycemia, then they reversed the epilepsy diagnosis but found he has an incredibly rare genetic deletion, and after all this he was diagnosed with ASD (autism). We couldn’t relate to those “normal” parents with “normal” kids. We couldn’t relate to just about anyone.
Fast forward a little over three years and a friend of mine, who happens to be a Kindermusik teacher for Joyous Noise Studios, texted me to ask if I could perform in a show her company was producing. They had lost two performers and were scrambling to fill the holes; I was eager to help. It had been a long time since I’d been onstage and I was finally in a place where I would be able to get out of the house for rehearsals without a baby attached to my chest. I hopped on board.
I had never seen my son as excited about anything as watching me rehearse. He only knew a couple of basic songs at this point and I was wondering if he might be tone deaf, but he learned the songs in the show exceptionally well.
When Miss Allison offered us a free summer camp in exchange for my help on the show, I was thrilled. A little nervous, based on our past Kindermusik experiences, but it was a family class (meaning kids of all ages up to five) and I had never tried music class with my daughter.
Music class has been a godsend for us. My son has fallen in love with his teacher and one of the subs we’ve had when she’s been sick. Being one of the older kids in the class, he doesn’t have to feel like an outcast; instead, he likes to take charge and hand out supplies or be Miss Allison’s helper. For the first time, he’s participating in group dances and activities–not 100%, but he used to rebel completely and run circles around the room, screaming.
I chalk it up to three things:
- He’s in love with Miss Allison and she’s in love with him. Truly, we couldn’t have asked for a kinder teacher and I would recommend, if you’re in the area, that you sign up for any class she has available–any of her teachers, really, because she is careful to staff her company with truly exceptional musicians and teachers. Because of them, I’ve seen my kid push himself. He wants to impress his teacher(s), so he’s done physical feats (jumping, hopping, kicking in time) that he won’t do for his teachers at school. I look at his IEP reports and think, I need to film him at Kindermusik–let them see him at peak performance.
- He’s at the top of the class. This is a rare occurrence for him, being delayed as he is, and he often gets frustrating when dealing with “normal” kids his own age, as they just don’t communicate the same way. While I do believe it’s good for him to have friends his own age and challenge himself with their company (he’s good pals with several “normals,” as I’ve come to think of them), it’s also a good confidence booster not to have to struggle where other kids excel. He likes to help and he likes affirmation; being the oldest in class (or second-oldest, some days), I don’t think he’s ever felt “less-than” in this class.
- The power of music. This is really the basis of the Kindermusik philosophy, I think: music is powerful. It teaches us far more than how to keep time or sing a note. We sing and dance and play instruments. We listen. How often do you ask your kid to listen to something other than your instructions? We hear music from different countries and traditions, we experience different sounds. We go on imaginative journeys down rivers and over seas. My children sing these songs all week long, and when it comes time for music class, they can’t wait to go.