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June 23, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

You’re Your Kids’ Favorite Rockstar

Father’s Day reflections from a former musician.

I used to sing to late-night crowds with a blues/funk band in dusty Nashville dive bars. Back then, I never expected my big break would come with fatherhood — but it did. Now, I sing to my two kids, wife and occasionally the neighbor’s cat when she wanders into our backyard. In fact, I’m sort of on a sold-out, 2,000-night concert run.

I don’t remember ever having a more captive audience than while singing “You Are My Sunshine” to my now 5-year-old when he was a baby drinking his nightly bottle. And when his sister arrived last year, my listenership doubled. Turns out, I’m my kids’ favorite rockstar.

Research shows that your voice is the most significant part of your baby’s world, and it anchors them to every resource that they need for growing and developing. When we sing to our kids, their brains are exposed to the sounds, rhythms and rhymes that eventually end up being the building blocks of communication. More importantly, you create a stronger emotional bond with them.

“Song is our very first language, and it is an incredible mechanism to connect with babies and young kids,” says Dr. Anita Collins, author of The Music Advantage: How Music Helps Your Child Develop Learn and Thrive.

In addition, studies show that music builds attention, working memory and language development. It’s also highly motivating and emotionally satisfying, which is key to learning.

My wife sings, too (though much better, I’ll admit). Between she and I, somebody’s always carrying a tune. We sing when we cook, when we clean, when we shower, when we drive; we’re a never-ending jukebox.

We seem to have a song for everything: waking up, brushing teeth, going potty, cleaning up and, of course, going to bed. But most of our “Greatest Hits” are improvised narrations of whatever we’re doing at that moment.

The other night, my up-until-recently-nonverbal firstborn was wanting to “help” put his little to sister to bed. In her dimly lit nursery, I sat in one corner, rocking baby back and forth as she drank her warm bottle; he sat in the opposite corner, quietly listening as I cycled through my typical nightly catalogue (“Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, etc.). However, when I got to my usual closer, “You Are My Sunshine,” something unexpected happened.

You are my sunshine,” I sang. “My only sunshine,” he answered.

You make me happy,” I continued, with a humongous smile on my face.

When skies are gray,” he sang back. 

Our first duet! Can you believe it?! Ever since then, he’s been joining me for our nightly concerts, and it’s now one of the things I look forward to most each and every day.

So, sing to your kids. Do it as much as you can. Make it weird. Not only does it build connection, but it promotes brain development and listening skills. Don’t worry if you can’t carry a tune, your kid doesn’t care. After all, you really are their favorite rockstar.




About the Author

Michael Aldrich

Michael Aldrich is Nashville Parent's Managing Editor and a Middle Tennessee arts writer. He and his wife, Alison, are the proud parents of 4-year-old Ezra and baby Norah.