How Babies Can Teach Us To Listen

Cienna has supersonic hearing. Since she was only a few weeks old we noticed that she would tune right into new sounds in her environment and whip her head around to find the source. Now that she is more mobile with her body and interested in exploring with her hands, she makes and listens to sounds all day long.

Seeing the world through her eyes, or I should say, hearing the world through her ears, has opened me up to start recognizing the everyday sounds around me; and how musical they can be. The crinkling of a plastic bag, the far-off rumble of a motorcycle, the sudden swoosh of a screen door opening. I notice these sounds now, because she does. And I often catch myself humming something in the same key as whatever I’m hearing; even composing little ditties to the beat of the construction outside. Sometimes we all start an impromptu drum circle with Cienna on plastic penguin rattle, daddy drumming the metal lamp stand, and me with my oatmeal spoon on the kitchen table.

Playing the world

Lately, she’s been getting her hands on the sparkly green ukulele that was so generously given to me by Daisy Rock for use in Alfred Publishing’s Ukulele Method DVDs that I hosted last year (shameless plug…). She’ll grab the strings and then slap her hand across the sound hole, pausing for a moment to listen to the notes as they disappear. She gets an overwhelming thrill out of this and if it weren’t for her equally overwhelming impulse to push up to standing using the body of the instrument, she could probably sit there for 20 minutes or more, just playing and listening.

One of her favorite musical activities is tinkering on the high keys and banging on the low keys of the piano. She plays, I sing back the notes, and she recognizes the connection between what she’s playing and what I’m singing. At least, I think she does. She often stops and glances at me with a small, knowing smile. In these moments I feel like I’m teaching her something about the notes she hears and how to order them in her head: high, low, loud, soft, harmonic, dissonant.

Listening to The World

But then again, it’s more like she’s teaching me: how to take the time to listen to my world. How to explore the sounds I experience. Ways to share the fun with the people I love the most. And ultimately, isn’t that what parenting is really about?

My father once told me that parenting is not so much for the child but for the parent. It’s an opportunity to become the best version of yourself that you can be. Becoming both teacher and student. I may be teaching her how to understand music, but she’s teaching me how to understand life.

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