Remember how Roald Dahl writes really creepy, dark children’s stories that are actually terrifying? Remember how Shel Silverstein writes really creepy, dark children’s poems about being eaten by monsters that are also terrifying? Remember how Clive Staples Lewis wrote a very heavy-handed Christian allegory about juvenile monarchs?
Yeah, I think those stories messed me up.
I’ve got a toddler at home, so I have been revisiting all of this stuff. I don’t know about everyone else, but I find myself researching the publication history and the authors to see where it all came from. Some of these characters are so omnipresent that I can’t imagine just one person making them up. A few rabbit-chasing hours later and I know the entire history of the Thomas the Tank Engine empire.
One repeating theme that comes across in my ‘research’ is the Parent/Grandparent making up stories on the spot as a way to entertain the Son/Daughter/Grandchild.
It makes sense - a lot of these stories are nonsense and little kids aren’t exactly worried about narrative. If you hit them with a few familiar items like a train or a teddy bear, they are sitting on the edge of their seat.
My kids are getting the same treatment from Dad, except I make up songs - not stories. Each of the kids figure prominently in the songs and typically their friends are included, too (and by ‘friends’ I am obviously referring to the stuffed animals that they drag around with them).
Ever since my son was born, I’ve been churning out hit after hit, including classics like: 'Hiccups are never fun,' 'My Little Baby Wants To Go To Sleep,' 'In the Middle of the Crib' and more. My wife makes up songs all the time, too, and all of them stand up to traditional classics like 'Baby Beluga.'
It’s getting to the point where I could honestly see myself dropping a kids record. I think about Rev. Awdry making up train stories for his kid and the dollar signs flash in my eyes. Who knows? Maybe I could be the next Wiggles or something.
Regardless of the outcome of this child rock-star fantasy that plays through my head, something really magical is happening as a result of our household song-smithing: my 2-year old son is making up his own songs!
Is there anything as beautiful as your tiny kid’s tiny voice singing their own made up songs in their crib at dawn?
[Next month: Steve debuts his kids album on Noisey Junior]