It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Nope. This is a Dumb Song.

Remember Nigel’s CD? And how one of the songs was a reassuring little ditty about how the people who love you always come back? Well, that song is starting to irk me.

Here’s the chorus:

Who says she’s gonna come back?
Your mommy does, that’s who!
Whoever takes care of you comes back
Because they do love you.

There’s a chorus for daddy, and one for grandma and grandpa, too. And then the all-inclusive “whoever”.

The verses are these:

Sometimes you miss them,
And sometimes you’re sad.
Sometimes you kiss them,
And sometimes you get very mad.

Sometimes mommy goes to work,
And sometimes daddy, too.
Sometimes you go to the babysitter’s house,
And sometimes you go to school!!!

Sometimes you laugh a lot
While waving goodbye.
Sometimes you understand
But sometimes you just have to cry.

And then the reassuring, “they’ll come back because they love you” chorus.

Okay. So I’ve listened to this a dozen times this week, and it was starting to annoy me, but why? Not because I’ve heard it a dozen times. I’ve heard the entire disk a dozen times, and the only other song that annoys me is “Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been”, the one where people “meow” the verses in high, squeaky voices. Ugh.

But this one seems innocuous enough, and with a positive, kid-friendly message. Right?

Or… perhaps not so much as you might think.

I don’t like it because, for starters, it’s not really very accurate to the child’s experience. Yes, there are tears when daycare first starts. However, once a child’s made the transition to daycare, they don’t “cry”, or “feel sad” or “get very mad”. For the first three or four weeks, you will likely see this. Thereafter it’ll be occasional, due to some specific reason – insufficient sleep, teething, change in routine. (And thereafter, smiles at departure are the norm, not “sometimes”.)

Why the tears during the transitional, adapting weeks? Is it because they fear you’ll never come back? Weeellllll…

I’m sure they’re confused. “Why is mommy/daddy leaving? Why am I in this strange place, surrounded by strangers?” When you go to leave them, they’re justifiably alarmed. Parents are a toddler’s primary relationship. The parent is all that are familiar in this strange place – and they’re LEAVING!!! Who wouldn’t be unnerved?

Unnerved, yes. Anxious, of course, But is the fear that mummy or daddy is never coming back?

I don’t believe that toddlers think of it in those terms. This subconscious fear could well be contributing to their tears, of course. But do they consciously have that fear “mummydaddy is NEVER GOING TO COME BACK!!” ?

As I read this post to Emma, her comment at this point was, “Not until you play this song for them, they don’t.”

I agree with Emma. Toddlers live in the “now”. They don’t think ten minutes ahead, never mind “never”. What they are thinking, at the moment of transition, is “Mummy is leaving, but I want her to stay!” Here and NOW. Full stop.


The glory of that ‘now-ness’, of course, is that when the parent leaves, the ‘now’ changes. The parent is gone, and with the parent, the struggle to make them stay goes right out the door, too. Parent is gone. Now they are in this place with this smiling woman, all these other kids, all these new toys, and a yummy snack! Hmmm…

(And what’s with the line, “Sometimes you go to the babysitter’s house, and sometimes you go to school!!” “School” being carolled out with radiant-with-glee inflection, whereas “babysitter” was just, well, just the babysitter’s house. Nothing like school!!!! That’s just rude.)

Here’s my second problem with this little ditty: This song completely lacks any focus on what the child will do at the babysitter’s house. It lacks any acknowledgement of the time that passes when mommy and daddy aren’t there – the time that is filled with activities and people, the time that is busy, happy, content? In fact, the song completely ignores THE CHILD’S ENTIRE DAILY REALITY.

So, are we really trying to encourage the child? Does this song have any real and immediate bearing on the child’s experience? The child’s experience, which, for those transitional weeks is a momentary uncertainty at the door, and then a day filled exploring, interacting, playing? The child’s experience, which, after those transitional weeks, doesn’t generally involve any crying or anxiety at all?

Nope. You know why? Because this song isn’t really about the child. This song is about the parents. It’s about the parent’s experience at the moment of transition. (And even then, only the transition for the first three weeks or so of care.) Because, you see, the parents need a song like this. The parents, the poor parents, they see only the tears. Caregivers all know that within 8 seconds of the door closing on mommy’s demoralized back, the child pops on their smile and chirps merrily through their day. (Little wretch.) Mommy only hears about it after the fact: she doesn’t experience it like the child and caregiver.

But in that case, write a reassuring little ditty for the parents. Don’t pretend it’s for the child’s sake. How about, “In just a few minutes those tears will stop, and she’ll be having fun?”

So, no, I don’t like this song. I don’t like the interpretation of the child’s response at transition; I don’t like the idea it promotes, that tears at departure are normal and ongoing; I don’t like the way it denies/ignores that lots of fun things happen all day long when mommy and daddy aren’t there.

And I really, really resent that it typifies my home, filled as it is with cheerful voices, chortles, hugs and kisses, music and play, being described through umpteen verses and choruses as a place to be endured until “the people who love you” come back.


March 28, 2007 Posted by | daycare, music, parents | 17 Comments