Thursday, August 23, 2012

Parental Earworms


You know how sometimes you get a song (or worse, a bit of a song) stuck in your head, and it just goes around and around and around, over and over and over until you think you’ll lose your mind? Yeah, that’s an earworm.

Everyone gets earworms now and then. Before I had kids, they were usually bad 80s or 90s pop songs, triggered by some random word. For example, if I was helping my husband fix a loose board and he said, “Could you pass me the hammer?” a voice inside my brain would immediately sing, “Hammer Time!” Or if I was at the reptile house at the zoo and saw a chameleon, it would start singing, “Kaaaarma karma karma karma karma chameeeeeleon…” And naturally, any mention of something “in the air” and my little brain voice would start channeling Phil Collins: “I can feel it coming in the air toni-iiight, hold on!”

If they’re not pop songs from your youth, they’re often cheesy commercial jingles. See a robin hopping around in your backyard and you immediately have, “Red Robinnnn, yummmmm” on an infinite loop inside your head. See a sign in the grocery store advertising, “All Beef Patties” and what do you start singing? Yeah, you know. It includes the words, “special sauce” and “sesame seed bun,” doesn’t it. It’s often an ad from so long ago that you didn’t even remember that you remembered it. See a kid playing with a slinky and deep from the recesses of your brain comes the chorus, “A slinky, a slinky, for fun it’s a wonderful toy! A slinky, a slinky! It’s fun for a girl and a boy.”

But when you’re a parent, the earworms become both more pervasive and more insidious. First of all, you have the theme songs to every show that plays on any PBS station between 6am and 6pm. All parents who are reading this, tell me you’ve never had the following scraps of theme songs stuck in your head: “She went ‘woof’ and ‘bark’ and ‘rrrrr’;” “Everything…is so wond-erous…;” “And I wanna know everything now;” “Flying at the speed of sound, vocabulary that astounds;” “It’s electric! Oh-oh!;” “And I say, ‘Hey! What a wonderful kind of day…’;” or “Red and green and brown and blue, they’re the Really Useful Crew.” (For you non-parents and Luddites, these would be parts of the theme songs to Martha Speaks, Curious George, Sid the Science Kid, Word Girl, The Electric Company, Arthur, and Thomas and Friends, respectively.) And that is a mere sampling of the theme songs your brain has to draw from.

And don’t get me started on all the songs from Disney movies, from classic to contemporary. I must have over a thousand Disney snippets waiting to get stuck in my brain, from the ones everyone knows like “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “Heigh-Ho” and “Hakuna Matata” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (which I am delighted to say both that my spellchecker recognizes and that I spelled correctly on the first try) to the less familiar “We Are Siamese If You Please” and “Feed the Birds” and “When I See an Elephant Fly.”

But even beyond the kids’ show theme songs, you have the endless nonsense songs your parents sang to you, that THEIR parents sang to THEM. Nursery rhymes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Little Boy Blue;” silly songs like “On Top of Spaghetti” and “Found a Peanut;” “learning songs” like “The Alphabet Song” and “Ten Little Indians;” lullabies like “Hush, Little Baby” and “Rock-a-bye Baby;” and other random snippets like, “Clean Up, Clean Up” and “Brush-a Brush-a Brush-a.”

These earworms might be annoying, but I find that they do remind me of one very important thing: I sing to my kids. A LOT. I sing songs that they love and learn, songs that someday they’ll sing to their children, and that THEIR children will sing to THEIR children. So it’s not an earworm, it’s a legacy. Because after all, what else can you do with an earworm besides pass it along?
The Ultimate Earworm. You're welcome.

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