The padawan whisperer

Infants fuss. That’s what they do. Well, they nurse and poop and sleep too, but inbetween all that they fuss. A lot.

Usually, they are fussing due to being hungry, or dirty, or tired. They also fuss for other reasons too, like our padawan’s other favorite reason to fuss is being cold and honestly I think being bored sometimes.

I’ve often heard from people that over time you can tell what they are fussing about by the way they cry. To be honest, I haven’t heard it yet. Every cry sounds essentially the same. They start with the same contorted face prequil. They burst into the same labored, open mouth gasp. They continue with the same squinty eyed, twisted tongue, almost guttural wail. And, they typically tail off with hiccups.

But, by process of elimination it’s pretty easy to deduce what he needs like hunger by nursing, poop by changing, being chilly willy by adding a blanket and so on. Tired is accompanied by yawns and exaggerated stretching looks all too familiar to me. Which only leaved bored.

Honestly, though, he padawan fusses surprisingly little so far. Either that or our tolerance for fussing is extraordinarily high. I’m opting for the former since the latter seems rather impossible. That being said, for the times we do have to figure out their fussing

Now, most people will tell you to do things like take your little one on a short car ride or rock them in a swaying fashion that mimics their being carried again in the womb to help calm them down when all else fails. While there is some truth to those old wives tales the padawan has already developed its own preferences. It choses to be different. Go figure.

My wife and I have different approaches for soothing him. Sometimes hers work. Sometimes mine work. But even she will admit, there’s something of a “superpower” to mine that just defies logic and reasoning when you really thing about it.

Honestly, neither is all that surprising at first blush.

The first is walking up and down the steps to the second floor of our house. Now, a lot of people would assume that the motion of going up and down the steps is what is influencing the padawan’s behavior. And, they would be right, in part the motion probably is helping padawan relax. But, being the dork I am, I’ve tested this theory to determine if the motion alone is at play. So far as I can tell – it is not. My research thus far comes up with three other possibilities working in tandem.

First, my feet on the steps make a particular sound. And, these steps are spaced in such a way that my nature walking cadence on them makes a peculiar rhythm. Knowing padawan’s existing fascination with peculiar rhythms my guess is this is helping them.

Second, the lighting at the bottom of the steps and the top of the steps is starkly different. The lighting changes depending on the time of day but it is always contrasting. Knowing padawan’s existing fascination with the contrast of light and dark and being particularly intrigued by the extremes of both my guess this is also helping them.

Third, and finally, although everything about the hallway the stairwell is encased in is white the textures do vary quite a bit. Visually, they are at about that age that patterns are beginning to emerge for them out of the blur of post-birth. It’s quite likely that the patterns that encompass the hallway provide a stimuli that is interesting too since our walks up and down the steps are legit one of the few times I am holding padawan that they’re not infatuated with staring at my face.

So, while the motion is likely playing an aspect the additional stimuli that the steps ensconce probably win out over the typical resources other parents lean on. And, of course it would take dorky parents like us to find the steps and then subsequently analyze their effectiveness.

The other thing that seems to work is singing.

Now, I know what you’re going to say – well d’uh, everyone knows that’s why lullabies are popular.

And then you will be given the homework assignment to skip through this blog and remember that my complete and utter inability to carry a tune. Seriously, as a music major undergrad I was warned against continuing my original tract due to my failure to match pitch and it isn’t outside of the realm of reason for educators and friends to likely refer to my attempts at melody to caterwauling. That’s not an exaggeration either.

I struggle with pitch internalization in part because of have permanent tinnitus. Until a few years ago I was very self-conscious about even simple melodic vocalization aloud around other people. My wife begrudgingly accepts my unsuccessful attempts for some reason and our dog seems to more than just tolerate me bastardising Simpson’s inspired lyrics to make him the center of the theme.

So, now that we have padawan I felt more comfortable doing a terrible impression of singing to them. Surprisingly enough, they not only tolerate my sad attempt at melody a few of these made up songs actually seem to strongly resonate with them.

No shit serious. I would not believe the stairwell trick unless I saw it but this is even crazier considering most other humans response to my oft-pitch meandering.

Granted, borrowing a page from Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix my invented lullaby is really just one pitch repeated in a clever way followed by what “should” be pentatonic steps when I do get to the changes … and the lyrics are just as simple (It’s ok. Don’t you cry. Not today. Because it’s ok). I believe it works not because it appears simple but because of the execution I realized I inadvertently built into it that makes it more complex.

For example, I tend to adapt the rhythmic interpretation to his crying. So the more poignant he is the more staccato my vocalization is to match it while the more labored he is the more i’ll lean on fermatas along the way. I might tighten the notation if he’s fidgeting in a certain way while dropping more “behind” the “beat” in an elongated fashion when he’s more stretchy. I will mess with the tempo and the time signature too.

But the most fun for me, and the padawan, are the “impressions” along the way. Because I am such a horrible vocalist the essence of dubbing over my interpretations of other people singing my made up songs. Might be King Diamond, might be Johnny Cash, might be Ole Blue Eyes, might be Yoda – you just never know.

It could be a fundamental interest by the padawan in dad and the exercise of bonding between them but if that were the case maybe any sound I made would be soothing (it’s not). Or it could be the act of singing but it’s not that either as other family and friends try singing and it’s not nearly as consistent or predictable.

So, WTF is it? This one, I guess, is it is because unlike most serenaders who know the song they know, I adapt and adopt my stupid, simple song to padawan’s individual need at that moment rather than forcing a pre-written song artecture to them. So, while the basic premise of my “It’s ok” song appears to be an infantile attempt at me compensating for my inability to “sing” what it actually produces is being finely tuned (albeit with a very limited skill set) interpretation in connecting with padawan in the moment because I’m not attached to getting the traditional melody, rhythm or even lyrics correct along the way and yet there’s some kind of consistency there that padawan clings to. Come to think of it, that’s probably why our rescue dog responds to it as well.


About thedoormouse

I am I. That’s all that i am. my little mousehole in cyberspace of fiction, recipes, sacrasm, op-ed on music, sports, and other notations both grand and tiny:
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