Thursday, May 10, 2007

Music to Their Little Ears

Have you ever had one of those moments when you step back from a situation and ask yourself, 'is this really my life?' While teaching, I had these moments whenever one of my first graders peed on the floor or fought over a pencil. I couldn't believe that my adult life involved determining the rightful owner of a 49 cent pencil, and in those moments I wished desperately for the magical ability to jump into someone else's, anyone else's shoes.

I had a number of 'is this really my life?' moments earlier this week when I took Elena and Giulia to their first Baby Music class. However, whereas these moments were once accompanied by a strong desire to run away at top speed, this time around I felt no urge to bolt when I found myself singing along to 'Aleegaloogalee' in a room full of mommies and babies. The girls had a blast and seeing them happy made it fun for me too. But if someone had asked me in 2002 whilst on a date or in a job interview where I saw myself in five years, I wouldn't have pictured myself as an au pair shaking maracas to the beat during Baby Music class on a Tuesday afternoon in Switzerland. Life's funny that way.

I was more nervous about simply getting the three of us over there than anything else. I had practiced driving Paola's minivan a couple of times, but the thought of hunting for parking with excited little ones in the back seat made me feel less than confident. And the thought of navigating the not at all grid-like streets of Zurich, obeying unfamiliar traffic signs and avoiding trams almost left me in a panic. Thankfully, Paola's friend graciously offered to let me follow her caravan style into the city so I wouldn't have to worry about where to go. We made it safely to and from Baby Music class, but I hope to take the train on upcoming Tuesdays when the weather permits it.

My friend Kate has been taking her charge, 22 month old Felix, to Baby Music for a couple of months now and she warned me about what to expect. She nearly cried from laughing so hard every time she described how ridiculous the teacher looks when she leads the class in a song and demonstrates how to use the "instruments." Though I believe kids can sense when goofy expressions, baby talk and overly enthusiastic gestures are inauthentic, I have come to expect adults to look like idiots while attempting to entertain little ones.

What I didn't expect, however, was how everyone else in the room would respond to the behavior of the Baby Music instructor. While she was squealing to the music and practicing opening her eyes and mouth as wide as possible, all the mommies were casually chatting and trying to keep their babies from wiggling away. I guess we couldn't really expect the other mommies to get fully engaged in a performance they watch every Tuesday, but the babies weren't really into it either. For some reason, this made me incredibly uncomfortable. There was something very awkward about watching the instructor enact the performance of a lifetime while no one paid attention. Perhaps the teacher in me believes that the presenter, no matter how similar to Barney the purple dinosaur, deserves his/her turn in the spotlight. Maybe the mommies once believed this too until they had kids and developed a new sense of how truly involved in Baby Music one must be.
Or maybe no one really comes for the music and thus not following along with the instructor doesn't matter. Let me explain. I saw a mom bring a three month old baby to Baby Music class and wondered what in the world she was doing there. For those who don't have a sense of child development, three month old infants cannot even sit up and simply looking at their parents' faces provides them with plenty of stimulation. That mom couldn't have come to Baby Music with the purpose of exposing her son to music and other children at that early of an age. Perhaps for her and other mommies, Baby Music is more about meeting other English speaking moms in Zurich and simply getting out of the house. I could pretend that I just go to Baby Music because the girls like it and Paola paid for it, but the truth is that it is just as much of a treat for me as it is for them. It provides structure to our Tuesday afternoons and I secretly love tambourine time. :)

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