2007.07.25 Singing in the pain? Heed Dr. Seuss' advice

Written by David Green.


I was in the living room reading a children’s book aloud a week ago Tuesday night, practicing for the Summer Reading Program. It was late. It was 4:20 a.m., to be exact, when I heard the sound of fingers snapping. I realized it was David. He was hanging over the upstairs bannister snapping his fingers to get my attention. I suppose he didn’t want to talk so he wouldn’t wake up Maddie.

“I know,” I said, thinking he was trying to communicate that it was very late and I should go to bed.

“I hear you,” I said. “But I can’t stop yet.” I was timing myself, checking to see how long it would take to read, “On Top of Spaghetti.” I wanted to see if I could squeeze in reading another book before the Summer Reading kids started their craft and made a snack.

“On Top of Spaghetti” is a wonderful book and includes the rousing lyrics to that old favorite song. Even though it wasn’t on topic for Pie Day at the library, it’s a fun book and since we would only meet one more time after this one, I knew I’d have to read it last week if I wanted to read all my favorites to the children.

A little while later when I slid into bed I could tell David was still awake.

“What are you doing up so late?” I asked.

“I thought I heard you cry out in pain,” he said. “I was going to see what was the matter.”

I didn’t know if I should be offended by his opinion of my rendition of “On Top of Spaghetti” or touched that he was concerned I might be hurt. Neither really. I just laughed and slugged him in the chest. 

But, he’s aptly described my voice. I really can’t sing. And every VolunTeen and first through sixth grader who attended the Summer Reading Program last week could verify that fact.  Or just ask my daughter Maddie. I think she’s the child who used to cover my mouth when I held her in my arms and sang lullabies at night.

Whenever I used to hear that Genesis song, I Can’t Dance, on the radio I felt such kinship with its writer. I loved to sing along in my really bad voice. They just seemed to go hand in hand, the lyrics and my voice.

 No, I can't dance, I can't talk.

 The only thing about me is the way I walk.

 No, I can't dance, I can't sing

 I'm just standing here selling everything.

 But I can walk.

 No I can't dance.

 No no no I can't dance

 No I said I can't sing.

 But I can walk.

I’m getting more and more faithful to that quote I’ve mentioned before: “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” Singing songs like “On Top of Spaghetti” is just plain fun and everybody should get in on the fun even if they aren’t going to win American Idol.

I wonder what effect that show has on kids. Does it make them feel inhibited about singing, fearing that a Simon Cowell in the group will judge them harshly? Or does it make them want to sing all the more to improve enough to make it to the big time?

It was great last week to hear the younger kids in the program, the first and second graders, sing along with me and not worry about how they sound. Of course, compared to me they sound fine and dandy. And lucky for everyone, they did a decent job drowning out my voice,

The older kids, those going into third through sixth grade aren’t so eager to join in. It’s the age where it starts, that kids think everyone is looking at them, listening to them, waiting to pass judgment and tease and comment on every little thing.

They need to heed Dr. Seuss’ advice: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

And those who judge and tease and comment should keep in mind another Seuss quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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