Babies are a tough crowd. No, they’re worse than that – they’re the most demanding, inconsistent creatures on the planet.
And there’s no escape.
Performing for your baby is unlike any metal gig you’ve ever played. A four minute cover of “Hammer Smashed Face” might get a crowd of death metal fans on your side, but babies are a different breed of beast. Even if you’ve figured out what your kid likes – be it singing to her, reading to her, etc. – you still might have a screaming demon child who opposes your very existence, and who you are parentally obligated to supplicate to.
Breaking the Law
If you’ve played in bands, you know how it’s supposed to go. You show up, you play your set, and the audience claps. There are variations of this scenario, but that’s the basic template, the law of the land. It’s basic cause and effect. But don’t assume you can go into parenting with that same mindset. You’ve got to kick that right now if you’re going to keep your sanity.
Thinking X action will have Y effect every time is a fallacy. You can’t sing to your baby and expect her to calm down just because it worked in the past. Babies don’t operate like normal humans do, they don’t make a hell of a lot of sense. Babies don’t uphold their end of the sacred bargain, and they get away with it.
Once you accept that fact, you can begin to rebuild.
Performing for your Baby
Like baby sleep tricks, you have to have a variety of tricks up your sleeves at all times. Not everything will work the way it did when you first used it. I used to get my daughter to sleep by swaddling her in my lap and giving her a pacifier; that worked for weeks until she grew too big to lie on my lap. Then she started showing signs of being able to flip herself onto her stomach, which means no more swaddle. It’s been a constant struggle figuring out what will get her to go to sleep.
It’s the same with entertaining your baby. You could be giving the performance of a lifetime, a ten-minute set of googly eyes, funny faces, and squeaky voices that’s every bit as deserving of an encore as the most rockin’ metal show, and your child could find it absolutely odious the very next day. Babies aren’t like most audiences; they don’t want to hear the Greatest Hits at every show. Truth is, you can’t really know what they want until you find it, and it takes a process of elimination to get there.
Baby crying? Pick her up. Still crying? Check her diaper. Diaper’s clean? Rock her gently. Baby starts screaming? Maybe she has gas. Screams louder? Try rocking again. If you do the wrong thing, what’s the worst that could happen? Babies won’t boo at you. They’ll scream. For what appears to be no reason at all. I can’t decide which is worse – getting booed when you know you’re sucking, or getting screamed at for doing the things you’re supposed to. It’s like you showed up at your usual gig, started playing the crowd favorite, and everyone suddenly starts wailing like the building’s on fire.
The point is you’ll never know what will placate your baby until you try it.
Learning to Live
I don’t care how many dive bars you’ve played in or how shit your drummer gets at the end of a tour circuit – you’ll never meet an audience that is tougher than your baby. Even if you do all the things they like (and granted, that list is pretty low at the newborn stage) you still might not be able to win them over.
Patience is what you need. Patience and perseverance. Because face it – the baby isn’t going anywhere, and neither are you. You’re stuck with each other. Unlike a proper audience who has the luxury of enduring your off night for a thirty minute set, you’ll be performing for your kid for the next three months. And you won’t even get paid – not yet anyway, and not in cash.
So I’ll persevere, patiently waiting for that day to arrive. Here’s hoping it won’t come too soon; my daughter’s already growing up fast, and I want to treasure these moments as they come.