It’s hard to believe that this gorgeous photo of my daughter was taken 18 years ago. We were at her baby music class and the professional photographer that was hired for the day perfectly captured the concentration on her face as she listened in rapt attention to instructions for the next activity.
Memories from the years that I took my three children to baby and toddler music classes will be with me forever. Those days are a precious, everlasting gift to me in particular because the children do not remember them as vividly as I do. Nevertheless, they associate their fleeting memories of those sessions with great fondness and happiness. And that matters. A lot.
The American Psychological Association is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. In a paper published in November 2018, they found that people who have fond memories of childhood, specifically their relationships with their parents, tend to have better health, less depression and fewer chronic illnesses as adults – and that this remained true even for people in middle and older adulthood.
It turns out that being intentional about building loving relationships with your children pays off in the long run, and like all relationships, the more time you spend having quality shared experiences, the stronger the bond. Think of how much time you spent wooing your crush for instance. The same way, your baby or toddler needs your undivided attention on a regular basis.
When my children were younger, our weekly music playdates gave me both an opportunity and an excuse to bond with each of them in a distraction-free environment. The classes were away from home so I could not be tempted by never ending chores. I also scheduled them in my diary, so I could legitimately decline meetings or engagements that fell in that time slot.
In those sessions, I caught glimpses into each child’s character in ways that I would have missed at home, as they interacted with other children and adults in the room. I was able to gently coach them on how to behave in a structured, public environment; to patiently wait their turn to be given the next musical instrument or prop. To learn to respect and follow instructions from another person of authority outside our home. To be proud of themselves when they were able to tap that rhythm or sing that new song (almost) word perfect. To negotiate with a fellow toddler who wanted the same toy without hitting, biting, spitting or crying. All of these dynamics were happening even while we were singing “The Wheels on the Bus” for the hundreth time. It was a chaotic, yet beautiful and magical experience all at once.
In whichever way you choose to bond with your baby, protect it. Ring-fence it. Schedule it to happen as frequently as possible. And when it does, be fully present. Turn off your phone or leave it in another room or in your car. Because before long, you too will be sharing your children’s photo, like the one above, reminiscing about the days gone by, never to return, when they were still small enough to sit in your lap.
Childhood is a gift, not so much to the children, but to the adults in their lives. Cherish it.
And God said to a people that He had caused to go into captivity, while they were in captivity:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
This assurance was given to a people denied of their liberty, as part of God’s plan for them.
Sometimes, what could look like a “bad” thing to an outside observer could be God’s perfect will for you. (Ironically those who were not taken away as captives were utterly destroyed by their enemies. Their so called freedom made them vulnerable to annihilation).
God gave the captives a profound promise to be with them in the midst of their captivity:
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
When you search for something with all your heart – you leave no stone unturned until you find it.
You never give up until you find it. You cannot rest. Your mind is not at ease, until you find it. You are unable to sleep even as your mind works non-stop to solve the riddle, to find the answer.
Finding Him and His will alone takes precedence over everything else. You cannot stand still. You are constantly in motion, trying different things until you find the solution. You don’t give up. And when you search of Him with all your heart, God promises:
I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
Ultimately, the one who trusts in God in all seasons, and who finds Him in all circumstances, whether good or bad – will never lack peace, and will therefore always know freedom in their hearts, whether that person is physically free or not.
And I am so grateful to God for the journey of the last 25 x 2 years.
As I look in the mirror, I see myself, 25 years ago, a first time mum to a three month old gorgeous boy with whom I was (and continue to be) besotted. I had just started a new role as an IT consultant with a firm in the UK and my husband was rapidly rising in his career at the time as an computer programmer. Three years later, I packed in my consultancy job to sing nursery rhymes to children, as I could not bear the thought of someone else looking after my son after school.
I bought into an early years music education franchise in the UK and I fell heads over heels in love with the work. Although the hours were long and the pay was a pittance, I drew strength from the joyful expressions on the faces of (most) of the mums and children whenever they came through the doors for their weekly singalong. I loved watching the children grow out of their car seats and start toddling around the room, paying no attention (it seemed) to my crashing cymbals and unending chorus of “Everybody do this”. I said to myself, I would do this for five years, until my little boy was attending school full time and then I would go back into the corporate world.
Fast forward to today, and I am still creating music learning experiences for children. I never did make it back into corporate life but I did spend some time in education, working in various schools in the UK, supporting children with special education needs and also as an administrator to busy special needs departments in schools.
I still love the way the process of learning music affects children’s lives in the most profound ways. I now have a team of passionate educators and administrators working with me to impact children’s lives through music and every single one of them are joyful witnesses to the power of music to change the narrative of children’s lives.
In 25 years time, on the third anniversary of my 25th birthday, when I look in the mirror again, I would love to gaze upon a sea of innumerable children whose lives and life outcomes have been transformed through music.
Too many children in my beloved home country and continent, have little or no experience of touching a musical instrument until their late teens. I know this because some of those children are on my team today, using the skills they first acquired in their late teens or as young adults.
Access to structured music making experiences are out of the reach of the majority of the Nigerian population, despite the huge impact that our music is having on the world.
So I wish to change that narrative for one child. I don’t know his or her name, I don’t know what they look like, but I do know that if they are able to connect with quality music learning experiences, it will change their life story forever.
I have no need for more clothes, shoes or bags. There are not enough days in the year to wear them all in any case. What I do need is your hand behind my back, propelling me forward towards touching one child’s life at a time, and helping that child to grow in confidence, character, cognition, creativity and courage.
My team and I will be grateful for every kobo, cent, pence, shillings, rupees or any currency that you can spare. Please email “Making A Difference” – email@example.com to find out ways in which you can support this cause.
And thank you, for wishing me a happy 25th birthday – reloaded. :)x
In a few days time, it will be the 2nd anniversary of the day the Nigerian government announced the very first nationwide lockdown on account of the COVID pandemic.
I remember the fear and uncertainty that many of us felt at the time. The worries around job security and concerns for the safety and wellbeing of our nearest and dearest. The grief and loss that we experienced on so many levels – loss of liberty, livelihoods, lifestyles and loved ones.
Just when it seemed as if COVID was finally loosening it’s grip on our lives, we were hit by a tsunami of fuel scarcity, power cuts, rising inflation, plummeting foreign exchange rates, political uncertainty and a war that has the potential to engulf the entire planet. Nobody could have predicted any of this in February 2020!
If only one could curl up in a ball and wait for the waves to blow over! Sadly, most of us haven’t got the luxury of time nor the means to remain in a foetal position for any length of time. We are mandated by the pressures of our primal need for food, shelter and clothing to rise each morning, put one foot in front of the other, and try to navigate our way through the chaos, to make some meaning out of multiple meaningless situations.
One thing that hasn’t changed however, is the power of music to lift the mood, elevate our perspective and let a glint of light through. Music is able to transport us from a miserable place to one of deep joy and peace. From sadness and sorrow to quiet and rest.
So I want to encourage you to make room for music in your lives at this time. Allow it to penetrate the walls of your home, bringing with it, tranquillity and peace.
Follow the link below for a relaxing classical music playlist that you might enjoy. Even if classical music is not your thing, today might be your lucky day!
When I was 5 years old, my dad signed me up for piano lessons. This was later expanded to include recorder and singing lessons also.
In my early teens, when I struggled to maintain my motivation, he would not let me quit, saying “you need options in life”. Meaning, you don’t know which of these skills will be your source of livelihood.
Today, on the 5th anniversary of his passing, I can only say he was so right! My chequered career has taken me from IT Consultancy to Project Mangement to Education Management and now, Music Education.
Something else Dad often said was, “When I die, I may not leave you a fortune but one thing I will bequeath you is a good education”. This has indeed been his most valuable gift to me and a legacy that has been passed on to my children, all of whom enjoy making music as part of their everyday lives.
I am a fan of what I call the “everyday” musician. Ordinary men and women, from all walks of life, for whom music is an integral part of their lives. People who enjoy music making because it completes them, not because it’s a source of their livelihood, not because it makes them famous or rich.
I will forever be grateful for my father’s legacy, how he gave me a well rounded education, that incorporated music alongside literacy, numeracy and science. He supported my music lessons for 11 good years, until I turned 16, when I started to prepare for my University entrance exams. Sadly, I had an unsympathetic music teacher at the time who was unwilling to adjust his demands of me musically to my academic realities and so, reluctantly, I quit. With hindisght, that could have been avoided had my teacher been more sympathetic to my predicament at the time. Music could have been my refuge from my academic workload, had he not been so rigid. But that’s a story for another day. Several years later, now a grown woman with little children, I found my way back to my first love and have continued my pursuit of music learning ever since.
For those parents who share my father’s passion, and are looking to encourage their children to maintain an interest in music learning, I highly recommend Nathan Holder’s book – “I wish I didn’t quit music lessons“. It’s available on Kindle.
And for those parents who would like to introduce their children to the joys of music making but are not sure where to begin, then I suggest you try out our recreational music clubs for starters. The clubs provide an opportunity for children to learn to play their choice of instrument in a relaxed, social setting, and are a good way to guague interest in an instrument.
Alternatively, for a more intensive expreience, you can sign your children up for private lessons on approval. This is where we give your children four weeks of music tuition, before you decide whether or not to take the plunge. You don’t pay a penny until you are certain you would like to continue with lessons. If you find that they didn’t enjoy the experience, you wont be charged for the lessons taken.
I will forever be grateful for my father’s wisdom and commitment to “giving me options” which has now touched his grand children, and I hope their children also.