Parenthood. Of the countless challenges faced and met in this life so far, this is probably the most exciting and daunting undertaking of all. It promises to change us irrevocably and test us in ways that we had never considered. I felt elated, but also unworthy and unprepared. Being a reader and lover of books, I sought wisdom in that medium, but was repeatedly disappointed. Almost everything that I read reduced fatherhood to some ridiculous sports metaphor (“approach fatherhood like a full-court press,” one such book advised) or similarly debased or dumbed-down the male experience of becoming a parent (another book suggests that, by virtue of our gender, we are responsible for the audio-visual equipment, and counseled us to be prepared with extra batteries for the camcorder. For this we’re expected to part with $11.95 and squander increasingly scarce bookshelf space?). I was looking for something less trite, more substantive. Even the one book I was able to find that treats the topic with intelligence and sensitivity is entitled “Home Game”. I guess they felt that they wouldn’t fully appeal to their market niche without some reference to athletics. Of course I complained about this state of affairs to my friends ad nauseum, and in response, some suggested that maybe I should write the book I’d been so desperately looking for, a book about fatherhood for men whose frame of reference stretches beyond ESPN and Tivo. I’m a psychologist as well as a musician, and while that might mean that I have some of the skills needed to offer helpful insights into fatherhood, it doesn’t make me a writer. Just because I’m good at complaining, doesn’t mean that I can offer anything better. I also recognize that I probably don’t have the stamina to make it through the process of writing a book. Completing my 120-page dissertation was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my adult life, and I certainly don’t want to attach such toxic associations to the task of documenting one of life’s most important transformations. I’m likely to either abandon ship halfway through the venture, or obsess over every last word so that the writing process drags out interminably.
At some point I realized that the wisdom and insight that’s seen me through the most formative experiences has almost always come from music, not literature. It’s always communicated something that words alone cannot. Given the central role that music has played in my life so far, (amplifying my joys, soothing my defeats, serving as foundation for my growth) how exciting might it be to expose our daughter to this most powerful and universal of art forms? It occurred to me that we could play a different record every day, provide the soundtrack for her awakening senses, let her develop a vocabulary of sounds and feelings, and rediscover things about myself and my own history along the way. I found that the question of “which record to pull off the shelf today?” seemed to have more weight to it. I approached the question more seriously, because she is hearing everything for the first time.
I decided to structure this as a journal or blog that documents the music that we play for our daughter. I’m going to try to expose her to a different piece of music every day, although based on what I’ve seen so far, there may be days on end that are just too hectic. Of course, I don’t expect the reactions of a newborn baby to be particularly nuanced, as she currently seems to have an emotional range limited to the following: Eat, shit, sleep, and yell. As she gets older it will be exciting for me to see how she responds to music, as her ability to communicate becomes more sophisticated. Anyway, I expect that something interesting will emerge from the process.