When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

The answer to both of these questions is “probably this morning.” I sing to myself pretty much daily, and when my kids ask me to stop, I sing to them instead. That’s pretty much routine in the Madhousehold.

What’s funny about this is that I didn’t always like to sing. I don’t know if I can honestly say that I like to sing now. I do sing, but I think it’s due mostly to me not being able to help myself. It just happens. So what’s funny–in the sense of curious–is that I used to not have this particular compulsion. Quite the opposite, in fact. When I was a kid, I hated to sing, and nothing could get me to do it. This was one of the reasons church was so hard for me–too much singing. (Now, of course, I think there is not nearly enough singing at church. I would much rather sing for three hours that spend those same three hours listening to other people talk. But that’s another story.) I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but in my church, when I was growing up, a kid couldn’t just refuse to sing and expect other people to mind their own business. Grown-ups were always telling me I had to sing and hassling me for not singing. Eventually I just started mouthing the words to get them off my case. (It worked.)

You might wonder what repulsed me so much about singing. I wonder too because I really don’t know. I have a couple of theories, though.

Theory #1: I was a quiet child, just as I am a quiet adult. I don’t and didn’t very much like talking, particularly not when I think people might be listening. Of course, not liking attention, it is curious that I preferred to draw attention to myself by not singing rather than just suck it up and sing along with the group. Of course, I fixed that attention-getting thing by pretending to sing, which shows that I really just hated singing that much. But why? This theory does not explain very much at all.

Theory #2: I didn’t like being told what to do and when to do it. I suppose this might make sense, considering how few things one has control over as a child. If I could get away without singing when I didn’t want to, it’s really no wonder why I refused to do it when asked. But I hated singing all the time, not just when I was supposed to be singing, so that theory isn’t helpful either.

But then there’s always Theory #3: Who knows why I do anything? Maybe I just like to be difficult.

So my youthful hatred of singing remains a mystery, but that shouldn’t keep us from moving on. You might wonder what it was that changed my mind–or heart–about singing. I certainly don’t have a problem with singing anymore. I’d pretty much stopped having a problem with singing by the time I was an adult. Well, certainly by the time I was 25. What changed? I don’t know. I don’t remember when I started singing at church, but it was well before I had children, which was when I started singing a lot.

I guess there’s just something about babies that makes you want to sing to them. It might be the fact that they cry and won’t go to sleep and you’d do just about anything, up to and including selling your own mother, to get them to shut up and leave you alone. Since my mother had already passed on by the time I had my first child, that left me with singing. I sang all of my children to sleep as babies and well into their toddlerhoods. Princess Zurg, in fact, insisted on being sung to every night until she was maybe four or five. There was a whole catalog of songs we had to go through before she would go to sleep, and she would throw a fit if we tried to leave any of them out. We learned to sing them very quickly. She was okay with that. It was the routine she cared about.

Ironically, PZ is the kid who has the lowest tolerance for my singing now. I guess once she leaves a routine behind, she really leaves it behind.

Not that any of the other kids care for my singing either. Actually, one of Mister Bubby’s first complete sentences was “Don’t sing.” Since he mustered up the energy to say this while he was hooked up to an IV in the ER while suffering from stomach flu, I tend to think he felt strongly about it. You might wonder what I was doing, singing in an ER. Well, it’s not like there was anything else to do. (In other words, I don’t know the answer to that question either.)

So my two oldest children hate my singing. That’s fine, actually. Just another weapon in my arsenal. Heh heh heh.

My two younger children are less virulent in their opposition. That is, I’ve never heard either of them say, “No offense, Mom, but you’re not the best singer.” (It’s true. I’m not. On the other hand, I’m not the worst singer either. I think, gun to the head, even the kids would admit it.) Elvis objects to my singing only when he’s trying to concentrate on something else. Girlfriend only objects to my singing when it’s a song she doesn’t like, i.e. one that’s not about dogs. But no one’s making requests, if that’s what you’re wondering.

My mother liked to sing, but I don’t remember her singing a lot around the house. She was more of a whistler. I can’t whistle. Maybe if I could whistle, I’d sing less. Yes, I think I would.

My father, on the other hand, sang a lot. I have many fond memories of all the songs he used to sing. Among his favorites were Arlo Guthrie’s “Motorcycle Song” and “The Story of Alice” by the Chad Mitchell Trio. He also sang a musical version of the A.A. Milne poem “Disobedience,” but I can’t find the version he sang on the YouTube. (I can find other versions, but none of them is right.) But my father was known to alter songs to suit his own purposes. It was years before I realized that it was “Springtime in the Rockies” and not “Bath time in the Rockies.” Boy, did I feel silly.

When I stop to think about it, it’s really curious that I sing as much as I do. It’s not like I’m a Disney princess or anything. I’m actually kind of gruff and aloof. Well, I know that I come off that way to other people. I know that because other people have told me so. True, none of these people has ever caught me singing “When Doves Cry” in the canned vegetable aisle of the grocery store. Maybe if they did, they’d rethink their impressions of me.

“So she isn’t rude and unfriendly. She’s just a complete nutter.”

Well, time for me to go pick up my daughter from school. I will probably be singing in the car.

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