My Fair Poopy

Owen loves to sing. Everyone remarks on it. This child sings from morning to night, a sponge for lyrics. Not only does he sing “You spin me right round baby” and “Bang bang bang on the door baby (bump bump) Knock a little louder sugar” and other eighties classics, but he has a fairly extensive repertoire of nursery favourites, complete with their various verses. On Friday Melissa, his substitute daycare teacher, was surprised to hear that London Bridge does not merely fall down, but also gets built up again with silver and gold, iron and steel, and stone so strong. Owen  was apparently belting out all the verses he knows, as if to say “Come on! Doesn’t everyone know this one?”

He also loves “The Wheels on the Bus” and splices all the lyrics from all the versions he knows into a very long song. There are monkeys that chatter chatter chatter, flamingoes that flap flap flap, babies that go wah wah wah, and a Daddy who says “stop doing that” all through the town.

Recently, Owen has been inserting his demands into songs. Yesterday we brought chocolate chip cookies to Owen’s great-grand-aunt Joy. Owen very clearly wanted to eat those cookies, but we insisted that we had more at home and those were for Aunt Joy. Owen was singing “Mary had a Little Lamb” when all of a sudden the song morphed into this:

Owen wants an Aunt Joy cookie, Aunt Joy cookie, Aunt Joy cookie

Owen wants an Aunt Joy Cookie, An Aunt Joy Coo-Coo-kie!

***

We’ve been trying to toilet train Owen, and it’s not going especially well. If we remind him about every hour, we can get him to do all (or very nearly all) of his peeing on the potty. I read that poop training was easier, but we’ve only managed one poop on the potty. We know he’s going because he gets quiet and usually says something like “I love you sooo much” or something equally complimentary. And then sometimes he gets red in the face. It’s like he knows he’s not supposed to be pooping in his pants so he deflects with praise. “Mummy so nice”; “Mummy loves you soooo much”; “Owen not bad”; “Big hug?”

This morning, he told me he loved me soooo much out of the blue, so I immediately assumed he was pooping (oh dear, why can’t I just believe that my child loves me?). I asked him if he needed to use the potty. He said “Not yet” (a classic answer). Then, to the tune of London Bridge, he belted this out:

Owen pooping in his diaper, in his diaper, in his diaper

Owen pooping in his diaper, my fair lady.

Pooping pooping in his diaper, in his diaper

My fair poopy… and so on.

This was when Duncan and I looked at each other in mock despair. I mean, he’s beaten us. We’re done. We can’t top this level of creative willful toilet training avoidance.

And as it turned out, he really did just love me. He was only singing about pooping in his pants. This time.

“Owen right round, baby?”

When I was growing up, my father was a constant source of random musical lyrics. My favourite kind of apple for a while was a Granny Smith, so after lunch, I’d ask (rather innocuously) if someone could pass me a green apple. Invariably, my dad would burst into song: “God didn’t make the little green apples / And it don’t rain in Minneanapolis / In the summertime” and I would get frustrated and teenagerish (UGH! I just wanted an apple, not a concert, DAD.) I’m not sure if he’s still serenading my mother at the supper table, but when I was growing up, he was a constant source of melodies, related (or just as often unrelated) to what was going on. One of my favourites was “Eight foot two, solid blue, / Ten transistors in each shoe / Has anybody seen my / My supersonic cutie-pie / Has anybody seen my girl?” (Lyrics pulled from the recesses of my memory, so probably not accurate). These songs were often accompanied by finger drumming on the kitchen table (rat-a-tat-tat!).

It turns out that we’re a household of melodies, too. Duncan taught Owen a swimming song for bathtime, which he now sings nightly: “Swimming, Swimming, in the swimming hole / When days are hot, when days are cold / In the swimming hole! / Front stroke, back stroke, fancy diving too / Oh don’t you wish you never had / Anything else to do, but / Swimming, swimming…[etc]” Then, at the end of his bath every night, we ask Owen to “Get up, stand up (woo hoo!) / Stand up for your rights/ Get up stand up (woo hoo!) / Don’t give up the fight” and Owen supplies any words we leave out. If singing doesn’t work, we unplug the tub and tell him he’d better get out or he might go down the drain. That works too.

Apparently, we sing other songs regularly too, because this morning, Owen was trying to climb up onto our revolving stools in the kitchen. He said to me “Owen right round, baby?” – Can you hear it yet? Whenever we spin the child, we sing “You spin me right ’round, baby, right round, / Like a record, baby, right round round round.” And yes, the video is even more awesome than you might imagine (the hair! the dance moves!)

…And now it will be stuck in your head all week.

Suddenly Thirsty

“Like children who listen in vain to the sea in plastic seashells they sat bewildered. Like children at the end of a long bedtime story they were suddenly thirsty.”

I’ll confess, I am not going to attempt to properly analyze the above passage from Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers. For one, I’ve not yet finished the book, but even in the context of the passage I’m a little confused (and intrigued). These sentences come at the end of a paragraph in which a French-Canadian missionary attempts to convert a group of Mohawks to Christianity. Unwilling to be swayed, the Mohawks place their fingers in their ears, which Cohen suggests is a means of hearing internal sounds that also connect them to the earth – raspberries growing, trout swimming: life and death and nature. When the missionary presents them with his painting of a vision of them in Hell, however, they are frightened. By removing their fingers from their ears, they lose the connection to the earth and everything they have known and they sit, “bewildered,” no longer understanding or having access to the spiritual knowledge they seek. The plastic seashell suggests that the knowledge the priest will present to them is inherently false or manufactured, but what of the thirst?

I noticed this passage in part because the last sentence is so true of Owen lately. At the end of a series of bedtime stories, he has started to try and delay going to sleep. “Mo’ books? Mo’ books?” he asks, or “Nik [milk]?” Rather than agreeing to go to sleep, he seeks comfort, becomes extra alert, hungry (thirsty) for something he does not need.

I’m a mean mother, because while I might relent and read another story, I’ll almost always deny him the milk, assuming that it’s a ploy to get out of his bedroom and back into the world. Is it barbaric to deny my child a drink at night? I don’t really think so. After he’s brushed his teeth and is minutes away from sleep, Owen’s request is strategy more than thirst. So what we usually do is to sing a song. Owen has two favourites for bedtime. One is the classic, Wynken and Blynken and Nod. I know all the words to that song, more or less, and when I get to the last verse, Owen moves his hands in the dark to point out that:

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes [points to each eye]
And Nod is a little head [points to his head]
And the wooden shoe that sails through the skies
Is Owen’s little bed [points to himself and to his bed]

His other favourite is probably inappropriate, but it has a lovely tune. I started singing it before Owen really grasped any language, and had no idea it would rise to the top of our repertoire. I learned it in Dublin at the Irish Theatre Summer School of the Gaiety School of Acting. I think we were taught the song because it requires us to use almost the entire range of our voices (at least, it challenges mine. I croak out one or two of the words). Here it is:

A boat, a boat
Come to the ferry
And we shall row
And be quite merry
And quaff some wine
And good brown sherry.

I know, I know. Soon he’ll be asking for wine before bed.

It sounds beautiful in a round, but Owen’s not up to that yet. He does a slightly mangled version that sounds something like this: “A boat, a boat, Caooodaddy, Aeeee wow, a baddy, A wine, A shawwy.” Because of this song, all boats are “a boat, a boat.”

I heard somewhere recently that no matter how badly we think we sing, we should all sing to our children, that something about the warmth of the body and the vibrations caused by the voice are just good for us (of course I forget the details as to why). I was so cautious about singing to Owen when he was small. My voice felt too big and his body too small (to contain the vibrations?) Anyway, the songs were all wrong. I felt like a plastic seashell, false, tacky. But of course at some point Owen became person enough to sing to. His body grew big enough to absorb some of the sound (if you know what I mean) and he decided which songs he liked: “mo a boat a boat” or “no no no stop stop.” So instead of catering to his manufactured thirst, I guess I’m trying to satisfy something deeper.

And he doesn’t even seem to mind that I can’t hit all the notes.

Baa baa baa baa

Owen loves animal sounds now more than the names of the animals, so while he can say “ship” (sheep) and “cah” (cow) and “dah” (dog), prefers to say “baa baa,” “moooo” and (his favourite) “ouf ouf ouf ouf.” He starts barking out of the blue all the time, not because he thinks he’s a dog (I think) but in response to hearing some dog he hears down the street. We skyped with Owen’s grandparents in Halifax recently and he started barking and pointing at the screen, remembering that every time we skype, he gets to see their two dogs, Jock and Angus.

In the past couple of days, Owen has started “singing” his first song, in response to his love of animal sounds. He sings “Baa baa black sheep” but with just one crucial word: baa. It’s not perfect, but it’s creditable, and if you know what he’s doing, you can hear him go through the approximate notes. Baa baa baa baa baba baa…

I know! Such a prodigy!