Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Love Babies

So, about a month and a half ago, feeling determined to start working my way out of the restaurant business, I began scouring every help wanted ad I could find, in print and online. All I knew was I that I didn't want a job with regular business hours, Monday through Friday. It was a very unfocused jobsearch, but I suspected what I was looking for would in the "Other," "Etc" and "General" job wanted categories.

I emailed a resume in response to an ad for music teachers and ended up getting called by the program director of a private pre-school that's not far from Lincoln Park. She asked for an interview and told me to bring my guitar and be prepared to sing. I love interviews that ask you to be prepared to sing.

After two interviews and a month of training, I had my first day as a baby music teacher today. When I say "baby music teacher" I mean that I'm the instructor of a class for babies and their mothers/fathers/nannies/whoever that baby hangs out with during the day. It's actually pretty great. I play guitar and sing songs, or lead songs with body or hand movements (no guitar), urging the grown-ups to sing (damnit) the whole time. The point is to expose the babies to melody, rhythm, movement and touch.

I teach one class for "immobile infants" and one for "crawlers." I love babies. I love saying hi to them and getting them to smile or wave back at me. In general, whenever I'm in public and see a baby, I'll smile and wave for a long time, giving them every chance to interact. They stare. And stare. And stare. And then -- finally -- they smile or move their hand vaguely. Or just move off. Either way, I've had a great time.

Today actually went very well. The mothers/caretakers accepted my authority, the babies looked happy and I didn't blow anything. At one point, I had all these percussion toys out and they were accompanying me as I sang "Oh, Susannah" (there's a song to get stuck in your head). One baby sounded like she was getting fussy at first, crying out in a way that usually means they're getting ready to wail. But then her cries turned into sporadic screams. It was weird. She would go, "Aaaahhhh!!" and then stop. And then a few seconds later she'd go "Ahhhh!!" and then stop. And in between her face looked calm. I'd never heard such screaming coming from a child that was actually completely peaceful. I accepted it as her accompaniment to my song. Later her nanny said, "Rita, I'm going to tell your mother about this screaming." I leaned into Rita's small face and said, "And you know, you can say, 'Well, some people would call it screaming, but others would call it singing.' That's what you can say."

It was a good first day. I feel very lucky to have stumbled on to what could be the perfect way for me to start getting more music into my worklife. I'll be cutting back on my restaurant shifts and dividing my time between both jobs. Just knowing I'm a musician again makes waitressing HUGELY less unpleasant. Twice a week I now walk down the street carrying my guitar. It's great.

(Please don't bother suspecting this means I must be mother material. I don't want my own babies any more than someone who loves ferris wheels wishes they could have one built in their own living room.)

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