The power of a theme song

You start these things, like most all of your parenting, as an experiment. You're in the middle of something - aren't you always? - and you see a need, an opportunity.

Or maybe you begin carefully, after much research and forethought. You've read the books, trolled the vast corners of the internet, Googled your way into oblivion in search of The Answer or The Next Step or By This Age Your Child Should....

Either way, you take a breath and throw it out there.

"Hey, let's try clearing your own plate!"

The plates are plastic, the floor already sticky and littered. You know she is capable of it. You try to be nonchalant. You try to make it fun.

She balks.

For some reason, you chose to sing the wordless theme from Rocky, imagining your toddler in grey sweat pants running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This isn't a chore! This is a parade!

She clears her own plate.


(The - internal, completely fictional - crowd goes wild.)

Then, comes the next meal.

She balks again. No can do, no parade, NO MAMA! NO WANT TO!

You remind her that she did it last time, that it's no big deal. You prance a little wilder, smile a lot harder. Then maybe you hiss, just a little. Finally, you"help" her, carrying the plate yourself with one hand, dragging her behind you with the other.

This is stupid. Why am I fighting this fight?

Another meal.

You worry about it throughout the meal. Will you ask? Will you force? Will the scars from this be some of the worst from her childhood or just a footnote in her eventual therapy sessions?

She picks up her plate unbidden, carries it to the counter, up on tippy toes to reach. The egg remnants and cracker crumbs scatter around her feet to join the rest of their crew but you ignore that and cheer your little parental heart out.

Yet. Another. Meal.

She balks again. You cajole and almost, maybe, beg and then go silent before you remember.

The Rocky Theme Song.

You start the song from the top and you give it all you've got. She's not sure she wants to give in. It feels good, this fit, and she likes the power of stopping everything around her with her wails.

But the Rocky Theme Song is calling her. And she must answer.

It still calls. Every meal.

You imagine it will stop, one day.

(We're going on two years of the Rocky Theme song.)

(Perhaps she'll still sing it to herself, in college, to her roommates, to her own children.)


KG said...

The real question is, does she know it is the Rocky theme song? Or will she someday (for some unknown reason) watch the movie Rocky, and exclaim, "Hey, that's my plate-clearing song!" to the confused stares of her friends??

Erin said...

So awesome! I love it and fully intend on stealing it.

Good Enough Mom said...

Excellent! We have used the theme song technique too. It works! Did you read the WSJ article about Chinese "tiger" mamas? I am going to write a blog about it at some point--but I have to praise your inner tiger mama here--love the "don't give up! you can do it!" spirit of it!

B said...

Love it! I find that song plays in my head when *I* am attempting difficult tasks like rushing everyone out the door and into the car so that we aren't late to school, but still doing it pleasantly enough that they don't pick up on my stress!

PS: My kids are pretty good at clearing their plates. Now how do I get my husband to clear his?

Michelle said...

Love it. I have found that parenting a child and getting them to do anything you want is all how you sell it. Sometimes it takes a theme song.

Anonymous said...

So late to the game on your blog, sorry.

We sing the limbo song to calm MM down. I just randomly did it one night when he was screaming and he IMMEDIATELY stopped crying. Ever since, it's the go-to no more sads song. So strange, these kids

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