I remember when a friend passed me this clip of Brobee doing his infamous “Party In My Tummy” song, and I was instantly pretty obsessed. It made me laugh out loud, of course. (Though I did feel really bad for the poor carrots for a quick second.) But I was genuinely into the music. And upon further research, I was pretty impressed with their roster of celebrity endorsement and collaboration. Biz Markie??? C’mon!
Well Yo Gabba Gabba was probably one of the earliest TV shows we let Amadeo watch. He was still too young to fully appreciate it, but he gravitated to certain aspects of the show. He really enjoyed watching the interstitials of little kids dancing. And while he wasn’t into some of the music as much, he really enjoyed ”Biz’s Beat of the Day”. (See below for an example.)
Marissa went so far as to even take Amadeo to a live performance of the show. I was unable to go, so she took her dad instead, who I’m sure was wondering what in the world was going on. I think the most excited one in the group was Marissa… She’s a huge fan of DJ Lance Rock.
And when Biz Markie actually came out to do Biz’s Beat Of The Day with all the kids, she just about lost it. That’s my girl…
As mentioned before, Amadeo was always very bright-eyed and aware, and was not very fond of sleeping. In our most exhausted of moments, the 3 of us had little choice but to vegetate in front of the television. Amadeo was always fascinated by the motion and the colors. So naturally, cartoons seemed to be the most visually interesting to him. He would fixate strongly on the imagery. So much so, that if there was too drastic of a shift it would startle him, or sometimes even scare him.
Ratatouille just happened to be playing on cable quite a bit right around the time Amadeo was born. And Marissa and I had always been a fan of that movie, so it was an easy decision to sit and watch it at times. One day, we found ourselves catching the end of the movie, particularly the scene when the food critic Anton Ego comes in to try the Ratatouille. The first bite sparks an immediate, nostalgic flashback for Anton that ultimately wins him over; that and Remy’s superb culinary skills. Visually, this movie is such a joy to watch from beginning to end, and this particular scene is done so well. For Amadeo however, the flashback itself was enough of a visual jolt to literally shake his foundation. The scene caused him to jerk his back in surprise. And soon thereafter, the waterworks came. Who’d of thought that Ratatouille could be so scary!
You do a lot of walking around the house, rocking, dancing and singing when you have a newborn. You will try just about everything to try and soothe the wee ones back into a state of slumber. There is a scene in Ivan Reitman’s “Legal Eagles” where Robert Redford’s character is explaining why he tap dances in the bathroom when he can’t sleep. He describes it as a Pavlovian response hearkening back to when his daughter was a baby, and tap dancing was the only thing that would put her back to sleep. It took having a kiddo to appreciate that (assuredly fictional) anecdote.
My go-to-song to sing to Amadeo when he was having nothing else, and poor Marissa was trying to catch up on her sleep was Dean Martin’s "You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You". I’m not sure why I gravitated toward that song as opposed to some of the lullabies that Marissa or her mother would sing. Maybe I was hoping that the consistent, deeper register that the song required would be a little more conducive to sleeping. But it typically did the trick. Never mind the message of the song; hopefully Amadeo won’t have such an extremist approach when it comes to exploring his love life.
I’ve sang this several times to our daughter Sophia as well. She is a pretty rock-star sleeper, so she hasn’t really needed it too much. But she likes the song even more than Amadeo did. She has this adorable little thing where she will look me in the eyes while I sing it to her, and slowly her eye lids get heavier and heavier until she drifts off. That’s what sweet things are made of.
One of the greatest things that my co-workers at the time did for my wife and I before our first one was born was have everyone in the office bring us a children’s book of their choice as a present. This proved to be fantastic because you can never really have enough books, right? Besides, they say that even when the kiddos are too young to even comprehend language, it’s still a good idea to read to them as much as possible. They not only become accustomed to the sound of your voice more quickly, but they get exposed to a litany of words and sentences that just don’t come up when you are simply changing their diaper or rocking them to sleep. Reading the stories also gets them into routines that pay big dividends later down the line. The selection of books ran the gamut; from "Goodnight Moon" to The Atlas of Clinical Gross Anatomy to "Where the Wild Things Are" in 3 different languages (English, Spanish & Italian).
Amadeo was born in the same year that Spike Jonze’s “Where The Wild Things Are” came out. Both Marissa and I, being the lovers of the classic that we are, we naturally read the book to him hundreds of times both right after he was born and to this day (though not nearly as often). I’ve yet to expose him to the movie; I personally loved it and I want to make sure that when he sees it, he is at the level of maturity to be able to appreciate what I think are the brilliant things about it. But one day…
He was admittedly too young to even appreciate the story when we started reading it. But he certainly came to love it later on. He has a thing for monsters now; he loves to pretend he is one every time he gets out of the bath, running around the house trying to scare us. And he has a tendency to channel those “Wild Thing” energies in his normal everyday goings-on. Marissa put it best just last evening when she called him the “King of the Wild Things”.
I knew that when the movie came out that year, that there would be an overabundance of Max’s that year for Halloween (kind of as there are every year). So much to the chagrin of my lady, I begged and pleaded with her to make a Moishe costume for Amadeo. I thought it would be amazing to see a wild thing as tiny as him (he was just over 2 months old by the time Halloween rolled around). See for yourself below.
The Rock-A-Bye-Baby Music series was brought to my attention well before kids were even on the horizon. The conversation probably went a little something like this:
Other Person: ”Have you heard those lullaby renditions of Radiohead and The Ramones?”
Me: ”What??? No I have not! That’s RAD. If I ever have kids, I’m definitely gonna have to get those so I can have the coolest babies in the world!”
That’s probably pretty close.
Well sure enough, we picked some of these up via iTunes after Amadeo was born, and they were really surprisingly quite pleasant. They’re just innocuous enough to not try your patience. And there’s something about hearing a tune that you love given the lullaby treatment; it can be nostalgic in an odd way. As if your parents use to sing “Boys Don’t Cry” to you when you were a wee one, just as their parents had done for them.
It’s natural for parents-to-be and those with newborns to want to do everything possible to promote the positive growth of a baby’s brain. You do everything you can… You get Omega 3 fortified EVERYTHING! Milk, supplements, etc. You play classical music to the baby bump via super stretchy headphones that somehow span over a pregnant belly. And then when they are born, it’s the same thing. Fish is every other meal. You play Beethoven ad nauseam. The whole time it was going on for us, I could not help but shake the image of that terrible late-90’s movie. I never saw the damn thing, but I can only imagine it was chock full of little babies doing amazing, brilliant things. Sheesh…
Anyway, we had a dear music teacher friend give us as a baby shower present the entire collection of Baby Einstein Classical Music CDs. It was one of the much better and much appreciated presents we received. And Amadeo sure seemed to gravitate toward them when he wasn’t too busy screaming his face off. He really did appear to respond to the music in a positive way, i.e. he soothed a little bit better than without. And at the very least, it made for a little bit more of a nice zen atmosphere around the house. The arrangements are pretty baby-fied, as you would probably guess. And I wonder if there is any scientific evidence or proof of the synthesized baby versions being better suited for babies then the more preferable orchestral arrangements. (I remember trying to play some complicated Yo Yo Ma for Amadeo really early on, and he pretty much hated it.) But they were certainly nice to have on in the background. The three of us certainly dozed off to it many times together. The jury is still out as to whether or not the early classical music immersion has paid off in Baby Genius dividends. But I’m totally fine not having to explain quantum mechanics to my 2 year old.
*As an aside, the experience we have had with our second one, 2 month old Sophia, has understandably been completely different. She obviously primarily listens to whatever Amadeo does when we are in the house, which primarily consists of him telling outlandish stories involving trains, monsters & snakes. But just this morning I put some Mozart on for her while I was getting ready for work. She’s yet to give me any feedback on that.
This is my son, Amadeo. He was born on August 11th, 2009. He is the perfect example of the old adage, “be careful what you wish for”. When my wife was pregnant with him, all we talked about was how we hoped that he would be a super-alert and lively baby. Well, we got that and then some…
His giant, black eyes never seemed to miss a beat. And you could just see his brain soaking up input at Johnny 5 speeds. Amadeo, unbeknownst to him, would be the root of many a dialogue revolving around “what now?”. What do we listen to now? What do we watch now? What do we show him now?