One of the strategies that we have employed to try to avoid bedtime shenanigans is to get the boys to sing their own songs in bed rather than us singing to them. This is because our singing seemed to have become something of a catalyst for boisterousness, perhaps it is a commentary on the standard of our singing.
Anyway getting the boys to sing their own songs seems to settle them better and, quite unexpectedly, gave us an insight into what was on their mind. We get to hear about what they have done during the day, and in Sam’s case who he has been playing with at nursery. What we had not bargained for was Jake’s meditation on family and death, which went something like this:
We are family and we’re very happy
We love doing things together
Daddy is the oldest and Mummy is next
So Daddy will die first, and then Mummy next
And then Sam and me will have to look after each other.
As you can imagine Karen and me were a little bit stunned by this diversion from what Jake had had for school dinner, and we quickly moved to say that we hoped that it would be a long time before this happened so Jake and Sam would be old enough to look after each other and themselves.
I knew that children, and if reports are correct, especially boys have a particular interest in death, but this caught me off guard completely; and also brought up all sorts of emotions.
You will notice from the song that we were at first very taken by Jake’s lines about being a family and doing things together. I thought it was lovely that he showed his feelings in this way through words that would suggest that he is very content with family life, and it really told me that Karen and me must be doing something right to instil those feelings in him.
The next bit tells me that he does understand the concept of death, something that he probably took from the death of my father two years ago when Jake was just four. He understands that when you die you are not around anymore, but not in a particularly sad or negative way, probably because although I mourned my father’s passing, his death did not have a significant impact on family life.
So while Jake clearly has some anxiety about Karen and me not being around to look after Sam and him, the way he sang the song suggested that he was not too aware of what it would be like should we not be around anymore. Or was he linking the two parts of the song together, saying that if we are not around to look after them we would not be a happy family any more? I have only just realised this as I write, and wished I could have asked him at the time.
What it certainly did make me think of at the time was about both my own mortality and my role as a father, and how different our family would be if any one of us was to not be around. It made me realise how important we all are to our family dynamic, and how quickly and how massively the boys have had an impact on my life.
Meanwhile I, in return, have had to go through a huge amount of change in realising my role as a father, and Jake’s song made me realise what an impact I have on their lives; what a big part I have in bringing them up – a huge responsibility.
Like most of the revelations that I talk about in this blog this one seems to be pretty obvious when I think about it, yet it is far from so when one gets lost in the day to day maelstrom of family life; and it takes a short five line song from my five year old to help me see my situation in a new way.