Family Rituals and Bobby Shafto

Does your family love to dance?  Play soccer together?  Deep-fry turkeys on special occasions?  All are rituals that enrich family lives.

Mine was a family that loved to sing. When we were children, my grandmother accompanied us on the piano as she taught us folk songs and nursery rhymes.

My sisters and I sang Bobby Shafto in harmony while washing dishes. In the car, our mother taught us to sing the round White Coral Bells. When I learned to play the piano, my father appeared whenever he heard me play the introduction to The Bowery and he sang next to me.

Later, when our aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered for Christmas, we sang through Handel’s Messiah in four-part harmony. We weren’t professionals. Not everyone sang in tune. It was a family ritual and something we enjoyed.

Looking back, what do I think we children learned from all of the singing?

Certainly social and emotional skills—everyone participated and no one dared grouch along. Our ears learned to distinguish sounds (a reading skill) and rhythmic patterns (art, music and math skills). We learned to read lyrics that used words from different countries and eras (more reading). Our vocabularies grew with words like andante and diminuendo.

With rituals like this reinforced from all sides in a family, learning occurs and memories are made.

It doesn’t matter what your family sings—oldies, show tunes, or hymns—it’s the doing it together that helps children grow.

 

Shown:  The Daughters of Catulle-Mendès at the Piano

Pierre August Renoir, 1888

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