Teenagers are hard on your ego.
My youngest daughter has a really good ear for tunes. I used to think I did too, especially compared with my mother, who got Oh, Susanna mixed up with Campton Races. My mother didn't let her inability to distinguish one tune from another interfere with her love of singing. If she heard somebody humming Oh Promise Me , she would happily join in with Sweet Genevieve. When it was pointed out to her that the song being hummed was actually Oh Promise Me and not Sweet Genevieve, she was always amazed: Really? They sounded exactly alike! We sang a lot in my family, so this happened with exasperating frequency.
As a teenager, I used to give my mother a hard time for her musical cluelessness. My scorn must have hurt her, but she took it with grace and humor.
I'm nowhere near as good a sport as my mother was.
The other day, I had the temerity to join my daughter in singing Ginza Ondo. This is a popular Japanese folk song beloved of Tokyoites, and it is a challenge to sing it well. My daughters grew up singing Japanese folk songs and they sing Ginza ondo a lot. I knew Ginza Ondo years before my daughters were born, but I've always had a tough time singing the beginning, drawing out that first long hahhh, and knowing just when to launch into the main melody.
But the other day was different. I finished the hahhh right on time and started the main melody, totally in sync. I was thrilled: I actually remembered the words and had a handle on the rhythm! By the time we got to the chorus, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Then I happened to see my daughter's face. She was scowling and her eyebrows were knitted together. My joy and triumph at nailing the song vanished in a flash.
"Mom!" my daughter fumed. "If you can't do any better than that, why do you bother?"
"What in the world did I do wrong?" I spluttered.
My daughter took a long, exasperated breath and sang the phrase I'd allegedly messed up. It sounded exactly like what I'd just sung.
"Now try it again," she said, rolling her eyes.
I did, with exactly the same results. No matter how hard I tried to repeat my daughter's phrasing, I could not get it right. Einstein's definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results each time. Let me tell you, he was right on the money. I went to bed that night, feeling crazy and delusional; why did I think I could sing? I might not confuse Oh Promise Me with Sweet Genevieve, but my daughter could obviously hear what I could not. How humiliating! How had my mother coped?
The next morning, my daughter was rushing around as she usually does in the morning, looking for things she should have packed the night before. She was at the door, struggling into her shoes when I happened to glance at the calendar: April the first!
"Where's my other shoe?" my daughter cried, looking around frantically.
"It's there somewhere," I said, preoccupied.
April the first, and I hadn't tried my usual April Fool's Day trick! I was really slipping. Even if my daughters had both assured me that this year I wouldn't get away with it. That this year, I'd have to find another lame gag and pull that instead...
"Is it in the hallway?" my daughter called, bending down and looking under the table.
"I'll just check," I said. In her current state, she was off guard. Vulnerable. My much-used lame gag might just work yet again.
"Can you see it in there?" she cried.
Yep, she sounded frantic. I seized my chance.
"Oh crap!" I yelled. "Don't tell me you didn't see this dead mouse in the hallway! Its guts are all over the place You know very well it's your turn to clean it up!"
"Nooo!" my daughter wailed. "Mom, I can't! I'll be late for school!"
I marched back into the kitchen. "Then I'll call the school. But you are going to clean up this dead mouse before you leave this house. Because you promised."
Her reaction was near-apoplectic hysterical rage fading into open-mouthed exasperation when she knew she'd been had. It could hardly have been more satisfying.
Sometimes you do the same thing over and over and get the exact same results. My mother got me a few times with the cat-mess trick, and I got her a few times too.
Now I remember how she coped.
Wednesday, 6 April 2011
Teenagers are hard on your ego.