Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mama Duck Quack Quack Song?

So what is it with little kids songs? I mean have you ever really listened to the words of some of them? Everyone's heard the whole "ring around the rosy"-bubonic plague theory - and that's a little extreme, but there are a bunch of other, less obvious examples.

The first time I noticed this issue was while singing Rock-A-Bye Baby when Lily was an infant. I was always really disturbed when I got to the cradle-falling-out-of-the-tree bit. Maybe it's cuz Lily wasn't very colicky - but I never had the urge to think about her plummeting to the Earth in a wooden cradle. I used to change the end to say something lame like "Mom will catch Lily! Cradle and all!"

Then a couple of months ago we were at the library story/song time and the librarian did a song I had not heard before "Five Little Ducks". Excellent I thought - a new song - and Lily, she loves ducks! But as I listened I grew more and more distressed. The gist is that Mama duck sends 5 ducks out to play one day, but only four come back. The next day she sends those four out and then only three come back - you get the picture, right? I couldn't help thinking "HELLO - Earth to Mama Duck - they're NOT COMING BACK - STOP LETTING THEM GO!" I had to fight urges to get up and go call the duck-DSS on her ducky-butt. Being a child of the 80's all I could picture was a sinister white van driven by some clown ducks parked just off the little ducky path...

But you say - it's teaching subtraction. OK fine - but how about we stick with the monkeys jumping on the bed? I mean there's a nice subtraction song- AND it teaches consequences and at least Mama monkey is TRYING A LITTLE.

Anyway at the end of the song Mama duck - who is now sad - oh really? she had to lose ALL HER DUCKLINGS before she got sad? - goes out looking for them. And look! she quacks and they all come back - yay. Too little too late if you ask me.

Despite my strong reaction to this song I decided to sing it to Lily while she was on the potty one day because Lily! she loves the ducks! Anyway she's all happy and making the quack quack noises and the gestures and all that jazz. Then I get to the last verse - the part about "Sad Mama Duck". And sure, maybe I was a little affected by the tragedy in the song at this point (I've been known to cry at particularly heart-warming commercials after all) - and MAYBE my voice got a little too sad. But Lily took one look at me as I sang about sad mama duck and - i kid you not - bust into tears.

Gordon chose that precise minute to walk into the bathroom - and of course I looked like a total heel for bringing her to tears with a song. Funny thing is that since then she requests this song ALL THE TIME - "mama duck quack quack song"? I've been very careful to mask my true feelings about the sad mama duck verse and at the end there's a vigorous round of clapping to celebrate the return of the ducklings. She's also gotten attached to one of her duck stuffies who we use to act out the part of Mama duck (after she's sobered up enough to go look for her ducklings) during the song.

On the other side of the spectrum are the songs that have been changed to be more PC or something. My favorite example of that is the "wheels on the bus" song. Imagine my surprise when we sang that at a sing-a-long and after the baby cries the parents all say "i love you" instead of "sh sh sh". I mean, come on! If I'm on a bus and baby is crying - I'm going to shush! Even Dr. Harvey Karp agrees - shsushing is MUCH more effective then saying "i love you"! I'm happy to report that when we sing the song - Lily shushes enthusiastically.


Abbe said...

I had to rationalize this one too.
You see, it says "one day" the whole time, so it's not that she goes home without one more duck each day. it's the same day and they just swim across the pond 5 times in the *same* day, and each time one more of them stays to play on the other side. She can probably see them all playing across the pond and finally has to quack really loud until they all finally listen to her so they can go home and have dinner.

yes, I *have* spent time thinking about this too ;-)

Jack DeBaltzo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JD said...

I was taught that this was about children growing up. All of the ducks go out, and then one by one they don't come back, until they are all gone. Then one day the Mama duck calls for them, and they all come back to her.