Home June 2012 Sweet Singing?

Sweet Singing?

For years I longed for children.  I wanted so badly to see their smiling faces.  To feel their sweet heads resting on my shoulder.  To hear them sing.
But then I had kids.  And, while I love their grins and their drowsy little droopy heads, the singing … oof.
It’s one of those things that gets romanticized: “The sound of children singing.”  The connotation is so lovely.  In reality, though, the sound of children singing – like driving with the top down – is never really as great as you want it to be.
Religious texts of all flavors are awash with reverence for “the singing of the children,” but I suggest those texts be amended to read “the singing of the children – on key.”  There’s a difference.  And when you’re stuck in traffic for 25 minutes with a kid yowling his way through “Lechu Neranena,” that distinction becomes very apparent.
Zev insisted he needed to use our drive time to rehearse for his Kabbalat Siddur ceremony.  I could not have been more proud or more interested in the little show his class put on to celebrate the kids’ receiving their prayer books.
I didn’t want to do anything to quash his enthusiasm or discourage him from practicing for his performance.  So when he sang “Shema Israel,” I very casually covered one ear.  “Hear O’ Israel?”  I’d rather not at the moment, thank you very much.
My father would never have been so subtle.  Growing up, I heard from him time and again what a lousy singer I am.  Even when I was chosen to sing at my eighth grade graduation he made faces at my falsetto and shook his head while other people’s parents applauded.  Dad was a singer.  I was not.  End of story.
I long ago vowed not to dismiss my own kids quite so bluntly.  After all, most pop stars these days can’t sing.  Who knows?  Maybe with Auto-Tune, Zev could be the next Justin Bieber.
In the car, however, he sounded more like a tormentor than a Torme.  In his full-throated rendition, “Lecha Dodi” came off as a dirge for a dead alley cat.  One song that had only 10 words seemed to go on for 12 minutes.  Yet another sounded as though it were being sung by his nose.
After a few songs, I could feel the headache march across my forehead like an invading army.  I tried to visualize a bottle of Advil, hoping the image alone would help stave off the throbbing that was booming behind my eyes with each butchered note.
Only a few more miles to go until we get to swim school.  We’ll be out of the car soon, I told myself.
Then, mercifully, he stopped.  He reached the end of his songbook with three beautiful, blissful minutes of driving to spare.  He was done.  He was quiet.
And that’s when Ozzy threw a fit.
The 1-year-old apparently had been enjoying the concert.  Unconcerned with things like tune, melody or rhythm, Ozzy liked his brother’s singing and was mad enough about the lack of encore that he spent the last minutes of the drive punctuating what should have been restorative silence with his own song: An ear-splitting scream.

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