I was never a big crier – until I got pregnant. While I hardly ever cried at movies or books before, these days it seems like everything inspires tears. My first inkling of this affliction came during last year’s Super Bowl, when I cried over the Budwiser commercial with the horse and his friend. I blamed it on pregnancy hormones then, but I cried at their follow-up commercial this year as well. It must have been emotional imbalance brought on by sleep deprivation, right? Because I don’t want to be the type of person who cries during commercials.
Since then, music has had quite an impact on me, with a number of songs evoking very strong emotions. Not surprisingly, all of these songs are about children or family.
Songs that now make me cry:
Barenaked Ladies, When You Dream: This was the song that kicked it off. I love this album and probably had listened to this song 50 times before. But hearing it towards the end of my pregnancy, I realized for the first time how it encompassed all of the wonder and mystery of this little person who was going to be with us soon. From the ethereal music to the slightly surreal lyrics, it’s the perfect description of watching your newborn sleep peacefully. Eddie From Ohio’s on the same subject is very good too, but not as tear-inducing.
Raffi, I Wonder If I’m Growing: This was the first post-baby song that made me cry. While When You Dream illustrated the emotional difference between having a child or not, this song demonstrated the vast gap between children and their parents. The song is in first person, from the perspective of a little boy. He complains that he can’t tell if he’s getting bigger, but his mom reassures him that he is. He says he doesn’t know if he’s growing until he can reach the sink by himself one day and declares, “I must be growing!” At the time, thinking about my little baby being able to reach the sink by himself seemed in the same realm of imagination as sending him off to college – so far away, with so much fear and hope before then. With Sprout almost walking but frustrated by his limitations, I understand the mother’s perspective better now, watching your baby grow up quickly while they claim everything is going so slowly. Yes, honey, you are in fact growing.
Ben Folds, Still Fighting It: I don’t know if this song has triggered a full-on crying jag, but it definitely makes me sniffle. While the Barenaked Ladies’ song is all about the awe of being a parent, this perfectly summarizes the fear and neurosis. While I was pregnant, I was terrified that I wasn’t going to be a good enough mother. Even now, despite Chris’s encouragement, I still feel like I’m not meeting my own expectations, not happy enough or patient enough or anything enough. This song reminds me that I’m far from the only parent who feels this way. It also captures the inevitable level of at least occasional ennui of adulthood. “You’re so much like me, I’m sorry … I can tell you about today / how I picked you up and everything changed / It was pain, sunny days and rain / And me still feeling the same things.”
Frances England, You and Me: This simple little ditty took me by surprise when I heard it on Pandora’s kids station. It’s another one about watching a kid grow up fast, but from the parent’s perspective. The clear affection for the child and joy of spending time with her shines through. It also encompasses my complete bafflement as I watch Sprout grow. “How did you get so big overnight? / How did you get so smart and bright? / Yesterday you were asleep in my arms / Today, you’re growing off the charts.”
Sesame Street, I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon: Ernie sings this song, which works well because I think he’s the most emotionally earnest of all of the Sesame Street characters. It’s about how he would love to visit many wonderful places – the moon, under the ocean – but he wouldn’t want to live in any of them because he would miss his family. As someone who has traveled and lived abroad, I definitely relate. In addition, since having Sprout, I’ve come to appreciate my family – especially my parents and in-laws – and feel the geographic distance more than ever. I’ve also grown to value our local support system even more. As Ernie’s family is his friends on Sesame Street, it’s particularly poignant.
While crying at the drop of a hat is vaguely embarrassing, it also shows how parenting has made me more open-hearted. I’m willing to put up with a few tears for a greater ability to love.