Five minutes into Baby Music Appreciation class, I am huddled in the corner trying to nurse my frazzled baby as parents waltz their children around the room so that they can feel the rhythm. Slow, fast, fast, slow, fast, fast, slow, fast, fast, sings the teacher, which also describes the tempo of my meltdown.
We go around the room with a chant welcoming each baby by name.
"We clap for Chloe, hello Chloe, we snap for Olive, hello Olive, we bounce for Jake, hello Jake, we emotionally shut down for Teresa, hello, Teresa." Goodbye sense of peace. This welcome thing goes on forever. By the end of it, my head is tucked into my husband’s shoulder as he holds Buster in his lap.
The other parents seem to be exploding with euphoria, psyched to be slow, fast, fast, slow, fast, fast dancing and bonding on a Sunday morning, and this makes me feel insane, because I’m not just emotionally miserable, I am experiencing a full-on body cramping, head in a vice, eyeballs aching kinesthetic undoing. Several parents come up to us and say, "Claire hated this the first time, too. She nursed the entire class. Now she loves it!"
They say it's for newborns to 18 month-olds, but I'm starting to wonder if a four month old baby like Buster really needs music appreciation. It's hard for me to philosophize, because I'm sweating and blinking excessively. The fluorescent lights are too much, as is the clanging of tiny bells and other baby instruments and the intermittent squealing of babies.
Just when Buster is calm, one of these tots lets out a shriek, and he doesn't know what the fuck.
And I realize that I can't handle small crowded rooms, or loud noises, or bright lights, never could. My mom took me to Chinese New Year once in San Francisco, where I grew up, and I begged to wait out the whole thing in the car, away from firecrackers and throngs. I still loathe the Fourth of July, with its unpredictable bursts of noise.
The baby is holding up better than I am, but something about the exhaustion and exaltation of new motherhood has made me quicker to dog the things I used to have to pretend to like.
On the way home, I announce that I am never, ever going back there.
Those other parents loved it, their kids seemed okay with it, but I couldn't hack it. My baby listens to Neil Diamond’s “Hot August Night” every morning in his swing (minus “Sweet Caroline,” because the Mister removed it from the playlist after declaring it f-ed out) and that's music appreciation enough for now. I am, I said, I quit.
Mommy and me movie? A dark theatre, no forced mingling with other parents as we are ordered to doe-see-doe in parallel lines across the room, that's just my speed. The breast-feeding moms support group? Didn't mind that. Anyone who has been a mother for a single day longer than I have has something to teach me, and I'm all ears.
But speaking of ears, mine can't handle the symphony or horrible songs and baby screams that make up baby music class.
Instead of feeling like a failure, which is my "go to" and always has been, I feel like Julia Roberts in the movie "Runaway Bride." She doesn't know what kind of eggs she likes, because she always just orders what her man likes, so she sits down to an egg taste test to find her true self. This is part of a very touching montage. Sorry about using such a lame movie to make a point. I know it ain't Kurosawa, but I liked it. And I related.
The kind of parent I want to be is the kind that can announce, even in the midst of two-dozen parents with massive loyalty and mad love for baby music class, that I think it sucks. For me, it's a sweat box of idiocy and overwhelm that Buster doesn't need and neither do I.
That goes for everything, as I try to sort out what kind of eggs I like. You sleep train, I don't. That works for you, I think it's a fad that makes moms feel like powerless losers most of the time. You don't use a pacifier, I do, cause it works for me and maybe my child will never learn how to soothe himself but I used one when I was a baby, and as my mom says, "You were over it by college, don't worry."
You don't swaddle, I do. You put in your solid ten minutes of tummy time, I cheat the boy out of fully "experiencing" his arms because he loathes it and I'm pretty sure our parents had no idea what the fuck tummy time was and we eventually rolled over and walked, as I walked away from that music class, as I will continue to walk away from things that just don't make sense for us.
Here's the music I appreciate: the volume turning up on my own inner voice about how the heck to spend our time. I hate that I just used the phrase “inner voice,” for the record, but how else can I put it? The baby books, the classes, the parenting advice, it can all get loud and bright and cause a girl to panic, and cause a girl to pretend she enjoys crap like waltzing around a packed room with a bunch of strangers and a confused baby in the hopes that he will one day play first violin in the philharmonic. I don’t even know what a philharmonic is, and I don’t care.
Buster has permission to be average.
That’s right. I’m a Jewish mother who doesn’t need her child to be excellent. When that kid flashes me his gummy smile, when he seems content, that’s the beat I can dance to, that’s the way I like my goddamn eggs cooked.
Next time I’m not feeling a baby activity I think I should be doing, here’s how I’m getting out of there. Slow, fast, fast.