September, 2014: Sitting on a small square of carpet on the hard-wood floor of the unfamiliar church hall as a purple t-shirt clad lady sang with the sort of exuberance one usually only witnesses in a Cbeebies presenter or the uber-caffeinated, it occurred to me that perhaps I was not a baby music class type of person. I had come along to my first Music with Mummy: Jolly Babies class with my not-quite-toddling Bubba (as she was mostly known at the time) after meeting the aforementioned purple t-shirt clad powerhouse of enthusiasm at the same church’s playgroup session a few months before, giving a demo. I hadn’t really gelled with the playgroup and was looking for something new that didn’t clash with the All Important Nap Time… I had never really done an interactive baby class before, but the sheer confidence and gusto with which the class leader had done her demonstration, complete with rainbow streamers and really quite splendid dance moves, had stuck in my mind. I was both intrigued and terrified. And even though all I could think about was that scene from Cold Feet where James Nesbitt doesn’t know the words and ends up looking a right tit, I thought we’d give it a go anyway.
Still, I wasn’t 100% convinced, I thought, as the scarves wafted away. And then I heard B1 laugh. It was something of a rare sound in those days, as longtime readers of this blog may recall. She laughed, grabbed at the scarf and waved it triumphantly in the air. Well, I thought, maybe there is something to this madness after all. We came back the following week and every week after that for two years. We graduated from Jolly Babies to Music with Mummy, took part in Christmas parties and photo shoots, made some friends and navigated many hurdles such as What To Do At Music Class When Your Potty Training Toddler Might Pee On The Floor and those fun few months when B1 went through her phase of absolutely not wanting to share anything with anyone, ever. It genuinely became one of the highlights of our week. Bubba went from being a nervous lap-sitter to happily shake-shake-shaking those bells and wriggling her bottom with the best of them. And me? I like to think I got a little bit out of my head and stopped worrying about what I looked/sounded like. So long as I avoided eye contact with all other adults at all times, naturally.
Being, for the most part, a stay-at-home-mum over the last few years, I’ve tried a lot of baby and toddler classes. Some have been great. Some less so. Some I can’t even remember. Not one of them have stuck it out through all three kids like Music with Mummy. When I found myself looking for a class for newly-turned-one B2 in the autumn of 2018, it was the Music with Mummy franchise I immediately looked up (we’d moved away from the town where B1 had had her classes). This is when we joined the Wokingham branch. Knowing a little of what to expect, I had less fear about these classes and although the venue was a lot smaller and the group bigger, the sessions were just as fun, engaging and stress-free as I remembered. The new purple t-shirt-clad enthusiast was just as exuberant as the last, as well as being wonderfully welcoming, friendly and possessing an uncanny knack to remembering an impossible number of kids’ names on the spot. B2 was less of a shy lap-clinger than her sister which made these classes a completely different experience. With B1 my concerns mostly circled around her being too shy to go up and choose an instrument, or that she might pee on the floor like she had that time at Baby Ballet. With B2 I was far more worried about her (unintentionally) lamping another kid with an enthusiastic tambourine flourish. Or the possibility we might have to sing the Rolling Ball song which involved her (delightedly) receiving the ball (‘I roll the ball to Nameyname…’) and then utter, unconscionable outrage at being requested to ‘roll it back to me’.
I think the thing which kept us coming back to Music with Mummy wasn’t just the fact that the kids so loved the music, the actions, the variety of songs balanced perfectly with just enough repetition, it was the fact that the whole format was just so easy. Even when I was lumping my toddler there whilst nine months pregnant with B3. No kit to remember, no problematic parking situations, no clash with nap times/ school runs, etc. The environment was always friendly, just a bunch of mums/dads/grandparents/guardians and their kids making music. There was the odd clique who’d irritatingly chat through the songs. The odd kid (occasionally mine) who was really just not feeling it this week. But for the most part, it formed a tremendously happy, fun part of my parenting journey. When B3 was born I didn’t think twice about bringing him to class (I’d made the decision to quit Tumble Tots at that point because B2 was still too small to participate independently) and actually, the hardest part about that particular stage was navigating the double buggy out of the car. Even at weeks old, during that magical 40 minutes of class B3 never cried, never wanted feeding, never even had an unfortunate nappy incident… Mostly he hung out in the car seat or the floor and either slept through the whole thing or just watched it all with slightly perplexed bug eyes. As did, funnily enough, every other newborn sibling of classmates I’ve seen attend over the last eight years. Music. There’s just something about it.
The classes went on over the pandemic, which actually allowed B2 to participate longer than she would have as she could watch the recording after nursery. B3 continued to enjoy the classes from the living room at home, interacting and following instructions like a pro, even through a screen.
Still, it was once the classes returned to the in-person format in a new, bigger venue in 2021 that B3 really came into his own. He went from being a shy, unsure toddler who had no experience of a group setting or, indeed, even mixing with other toddlers his age to a confident, bouncing, enthusiastic member of the class. He listened, he learned and by his third birthday, he knew every word of every song and was happily making requests. He’s even picked up some rather splendid dance moves of his own.
This is why, I think, when I watch him. This is why I came back, even though I’m not a baby music class person. This is why I put aside my own self-consciousness and sang along and bounced like a ball, waddled like a penguin, (did a bit of line-dancing even, I seem to recall?) and, at one point, took it in turns to jump two toddlers out of bed in the morning. It wasn’t about me. It was about the kids, the fun, the joy, the music.
Maybe I am a baby music class person, after all.