I picked Girl one up from school in tears. What was wrong? I asked.
“I like to sing. None of my friends like it when I sing. I hum a lot when I work. My friends tell me to stop. I like to sing but Boy two hates it. He tells me to stop any time he hears me. Even the teachers are telling me to stop.
I love to sing, but now I have to stop doing it.”
The words came with intermittent sobs and much sniffling.
“I just don’t want to stop singing,” she whispered through more tears.
Whatever the facts from the others involved, Girl one was in pain. What to say, I wondered. I believe in the importance of voices. Finding them, using them, celebrating them. I also like to work in silence. No sound (unless it is happening live in nature) is my idea of perfect working space.
When Girl one was two and three she would talk non-stop, especially in the car, no audience required. If she wasn’t talking, she was singing, making up ballads that told all kinds of stories. Now that she is older, she writes some of her songs down. On scraps of paper. In torn up notebooks. We don’t have them all collected. If I could find one, I’d count it a triumph, but I’ve seen a few. Little verses with chorus. At eight, Girl one has a beautiful voice. Other people have noticed it too.
What to do?
I told Girl one about my working habits. How, unlike Daddy, I NEVER listen to music if I writing, or thinking, even though I really, really love music. And how her friends might be like that too. Being asked to be quiet, I suggested, is not the same thing as people hating your voice. Whatever the answer is, it is not to stop singing. The answer is to know when to sing.
We like to read together, what if we start looking for times to sing together? Learn new songs? I have a few minutes right now if you’re interested, I said.
Girl one’s eyebrows touched the top of her head and pulled the rest of her up on tiptoes. I thought she might pirouette. “I would love that,” she managed. We went to the piano and got out my music. We sang one she knew and worked on two others. I sang the verses with her but let her have the choruses to herself. She poured on her vibrato whenever possible. Fifteen minutes later, I had to get back to dinner. She walked away with little spins. Her toothless smile began at the torn out- earring- redesigned ear, and didn’t seem quite finished when it hit the other side. “Thanks a lot, Mom,” she said coming back for a hug.