I lay awake half the night trying to figure out how to write this without seeming totally sorry for myself and bumming you out. How do I put a positive spin on it, show how you and I can make the best of our childless situation? I can offer some suggestions, but you and I know anything we do as a substitute for what we might do with our own children is just a . . . substitute.
Friends had been urging me for months to play at a local open mic that happens on Friday nights in a nearby small town. I finally hauled my guitar down there. It’s in the former cafeteria of a former middle school that got moved up the hill due to tsunami worries. Now a program for the poor uses the building.
When I walked in, a man I knew stood at the mic with his three-year-old son next to him pretending to strum a yellow ukulele with a smiley face on it. I have watched this child, Evan, grow from a swaddled blob to a boy who can walk, talk and sing. His dad, Tom, a banjo player, has brought him to song circles and open mics and always included Evan in the act. Evan still can’t really play, but he knows all the old folk and bluegrass songs that Tom plays.
Shortly after Tom and Evan, Tony, a man my age, took the stage with his grown son. I didn’t even know he had a son, but there he was, handsome, with a good voice, singing in harmony with his dad. That’s what got me.
I have been a solo act forever. My parents didn’t do music, rarely came to hear me perform. I became a musician in spite of them, not because of them. When I hear about families that do singalongs in the car or go caroling at Christmas, I am so jealous. I always thought if I had children, I could share my love of music with them. We would do the singalongs. I’d pay for whatever lessons they wanted, teach them all my songs, and create my own little band.
I had a taste of it when my husband was alive and my youngest stepson spent time with us. Fred and I sang with a vocal ensemble. For our Christmas gigs, Michael would put on a white shirt and a red bow tie and join us, singing next to me, his little-boy voice higher than mine. Oh, that was sweet. I tried to teach him a little piano, but his mother didn’t agree that he needed lessons.
Oh, and there was the Christmas when the step-granddaughters sat with me at the piano to do the “Little Drummer Boy” and other carols. They were as enchanted by the music as I was. It was heaven. I don’t know where either of those girls is now, but I’m lucky we had those moments.
Back at the open mic, watching Tony and his son, I wanted to cry, even though overall I enjoyed the evening and plan to go back this week. I will continue to be the solo act.
I know children don’t always share your interests. They might reject them altogether. And I might not have the patience to deal with little kids spoiling my act, singing off key, and repeating the same phrases over and over while they learn. They might be more interested in their smart phones than in anything I wanted them to do. But how sweet it would be if we could sing in harmony together.
I would also want to share my religion, my politics, and my ways of doing things. But children are their own people. You hope that a little rubs off, but there are no guarantees.
Enough fantasizing, right? We don’t have children, but we can share our talents and our joys with other people’s kids. It might not be music; it might be football, classic cars, art or graphic novels.
For me, it’s music. This school year’s religious education program begins tonight at our church. I will lead the singing and teach the kids some songs that are new to them but were old when I learned them. I didn’t learn them from my parents but from the nuns at St. Martin’s Church.
We can pass what we know to unlimited numbers of children and young adults by teaching, leading, coaching, and being their older friends. They won’t be our own, but it’s still our legacy, and it still counts.
I thank you for being here and welcome your comments.
4 thoughts on “Who will we teach our favorite songs?”
Ahhhh. This is the one that always stings…
I have no answer, I just ride this wave when it comes.
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Hi Sue, just wanted to say I am grateful for your posts. Although my husband is still alive, I truly don’t look forward to the future without him. As I just had my 48th birthday, I find I am more accepting of my childless state and no longer in the hoping-to-get-pregnant phase. I also had an eye-opening experience staying with someone with a special needs child for two weeks that made me realize I need to be careful what I wish for. Maybe God knew what he was doing not allowing me to get pregnant after we reversed my husband’s vasectomy. I always try to make time to read your posts and find them comforting.
Thank you, Debbie. I think you’re right about God knowing what he was doing.
I recently started coaching a girls age-10 soccer team. I’m having fun with them; celebrating their victories and learning from lost games. Still, I wish I had a child on the team.