When I was 17 years old, way the heck back in the 1970s, I bought my first hi-fidelity turntable with money I saved from baby-sitting. Along with it, I bought my very first album, Hot Rocks 1964-1971 by the Rolling Stones. Nearly every afternoon, I’d close my bedroom door, slip on a set of headphones, turn up the volume and rock out to tunes like Gimme Shelter and Paint It, Black. Almost instantly, I’d transport my body and mind to somewhere else. Somewhere peaceful. (And all without drugs, in case you were wondering!) That “C” I just got on my chemistry test? I’ll do better next time. Still no call from Tim Banks for Saturday night? He’s history to me!
Music was such an important part of my life back then. Like eating. Like breathing. It brought me great comfort and solace in bad times; the cherry on top of the sundae in good.
Fast forward to the 1990s. 1996 to be exact. The year my fraternal twin sons were born. Thanks to the feminist movement I had the choice of putting my kids in daycare and heading out to work full-time or staying at home with them. I chose the latter. (In looking back, I would have done things a bit differently but the past is the past.) Although I wanted to be with my kids, I found the toddler years to be rough. I often felt lonely and isolated with few people who could relate to my very particular situation. The Internet was just beginning to surface. I’m not sure texting was even around then. I didn’t know any other stay-at-home moms as all my other girlfriends didn’t have kids!
I was on my own.
So when the days seemed endless and boring (rainy days were the worst) or when the kids were restless and whiny, I’d once again turn to music to get us through. I was into The Wallflowers in those days. When I found my mood fading, I’d grab hold of a twin, cradle him tight and turn up the first track, One Headlight. We’d rock, sway and twirl around the room until I was breathless, not only from the aerobic workout but from the feeling of gratitude for the life I had. Music had once again performed its magic on me. I was restored. But no sooner had I caught my breath than I’d hit replay and swoop my other twin up in my arms and give him a turn on my makeshift dance floor. Doubly blessed, for sure.
Music was with us at mealtime, too. When I’d buckle my boys in their high chairs for dinner, I’d change directions and play some show tunes while they ate. For me, a Broadway hit was a much better choice than Barney, Raffi or even Disney. I don’t mean that as a slam. I just couldn’t endure it. I needed grown-up music. So instead my kids listened to my music. They got the likes of Gwen Verdon belting out Whatever Lola Wants from Damn Yankees (1955 Original Broadway Cast) and could sing it all by heart by age two!
Yes, I used music as therapy. Opera, blue-grass guitar, soulful rhythm and blues—you name it, we listened to it. But when the frustration of parenting twins built to a crescendo, it was the sharp musical contrasts of Smells Like Teen Spirit that always turned things around for me. The strong guitar riffs, the heavy-handed pounding of the drum, Nirvana truly saved me. It was empowering, freeing to play air guitar right along side the conflicted Kurt Cobain because at that moment, I felt conflicted too. I called it my Mean Mommy Music but after a few minutes of listening, I was anything but.
Thankfully, music had a calming effect on my toddler twins as well. When they were in the midst of a toy war, for instance, rather than pry them apart and put them in separate time outs, I’d flip on the CD player and just turn up the music. Almost instantly, their attention switched from biting, kicking, and screaming to concentrating on the melody filling the room. They simply couldn’t do two things at once—fighting and listening—and thankfully music always won out. The room quickly quieted as they’d refocus to other objects in the room. It was magic! (And what a nice lesson in self soothing!)
Those challenging years are behind us. My toddler twins are now full-grown teenagers with their own taste in music. Their own musical soundtrack plays a big part in their lives now, too. I’d like to think I had a hand in that.
So when your toddler twins are wearing you out, don’t get mad. Get musical.