Strength in numbers

Last Saturday I did a sort-of brave thing.

I joined 2,500 other strangers to sing the Mozart Requiem at the Albert Hall from ‘scratch’ i.e. with little or no practice.

Ok, I concede I went with 2 friends, and that I do sing and I can read music, but I haven’t sung much classical music recently and I certainly haven’t ever sung the tricky Mozart Requiem (think dramatic and discordant, punchy and loud!).

On opening the score 2 weeks ago to sing along to the CD, you’d have laughed if you’d seen my face. Lets just say I wondered if my habit of winging it might have gone it a bit too far this time… Eeek.  The Piglet in me started to panic rather quietly and Britishly.

So, I did a run through with my friend who’s a professional oboeist and a professional mum of 3 (the latter job is her current full time, unpaid one).  She awed me with her ability to find the right note for us to come in from about 16 others played 4 bars before. Amazing. What has she got in her ears that I haven’t?!

But the incredible thing was that when it came to it, with only one hour rehearsal with the rest of The Really Big Chorus, I found the whole thing fun and very do-able.

It was a deep lesson in the extraordinary power of numbers and working in unison.  The parallels with parenting kept reverberating around my head like the music in the auditorium (rather annoying when I was desperately trying to keep an eye on the conductor’s baton that was 50metres below us).

Trying to sing a rather discordant harmony part alone at home with a half-size Casio Keyboard was like trying to catch a mosquito in a jar.  But when I stood up in that immense, rotunda of a Hall, supported by a 26 piece orchestra, 2,500 other voices and a brilliant (and very brave) conductor, those notes were so much easier to find.  The tempo, the tone and the mood were all present, unlike at home.

Why? It’s simple. Each part was never intended to be sung alone.

Same goes for raising children. This incredibly tough job of becoming the life-line of a tiny baby who does nothing but sleep, feed and cry scream, into a happy, healthy responsible adult is nothing short of very tall order. Very.  Especially if we do it alone.

As we all know, we so desperately need the support of family and friends as well as health care professionals. However, in this day and age, when so many people’s jobs take them far from parents and extended family, that support is hard to find.  Health visitors are a rare and precious commodity for middle class families as their time is squeezed and they have to prioritise ‘at risk’ families.

I feel more and more strongly since having children myself how the nuclear family model is not the best way in which to raise the next generation.  Having aunts and uncles and not just mums and dads around can be a massive practical help not to mention providing rich sources of insight into the peculiar traits of a child (“Your uncle used to sit just like that”!?!).  And those not in the immediate family, like an aunt, and can often provide advice more objectively than your own mother (!).

My barefooted Aussie husband’s family rarely get a chance to visit but when they do we realise what we’re missing when they comment how my son reminds them of his dad or his great at the same tender age…

Ok, I know that there’s plenty of reason to keep a good distance from certain family members who are overbearing or interfering (to put it politely). Some of you may have moved away from certain family members for this very reason, which sometimes has to be done to put a healthy boundary in. I’m incredibly fortunate to have a mother who is as helpful and generous with her time as she is careful to not to interfere. Most advice she gives is offered in an open hand. I know, amazing. The woman deserves a medal.

But the wisdom, insight and support of those who have already gone through the whole ordeal experience themselves can be so valuable.

We need it to help us sing in tune.  I know I do.


One thought on “Strength in numbers

  1. There’s a reason people say that it takes a village to raise a child. I am 100% with you on this one. And speaking as a person whose nuclear family is a few adults short…

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