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|Whooosh! Primary Songs Went Right Over My Head|
Oct. 9th, 2006 at 1:22 am
I wasn’t a dumb child, though after reading this you will be convinced that I was. From what I am told I was actually quite bright though little evidence of such promise remains. In any case now that I have children of my own (gasp! a male blogger talking about his kids! and not solely to emphasize the number of them?) I am realizing that there were all sorts of things that I was missing. They just didn’t click. I’m not talking about reading Where the Wild Things Are and understanding it to be a silly story about a dream rather than a temple text with a deep and meaningful poetic structure, though I plan on talking even more about children’s books another post. I mean really simple things. Like the meaning of Primary Songs.
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This was made clear to me while listening to our three year old sing. As part of his ever expanding bedtime routine he now gets to sing a song after saying his prayers. Recently he has been singing either I Am a Child of God or Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam. Sometimes we sing Fruit Salad. Listening to him sing the words of I Am a Child of God is what caused a realization that for many of the words he is simply singing the sounds without having any idea what it is he is saying. For example, “Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.” He has no concept not only of what that means but even of what the individual words he is singing are. Earthly? Dear? Mere sounds he is making.
Listening to him I was reminded of my own primary experience sitting on the yellow benches of the Centerville 1st Ward Primary room. I didn’t care much for singing, possible because I was terrible at it, but I made a good faith effort at it and wasn’t intentionally ignoring the chorister or anything. I knew all the primary songs, but looking back, I was missing out at least some of what they were trying to teach me. In fact, for many of the songs I’ve only understood them now as I’ve heard him singing them and I’ve reflected on my own experience with them. For example:
Give Said the Little Stream
Add to this the fact that the nearest stream was dry most of the time and wasn’t making anything green. The only times I remember much water coming down it were in 1983 and 1984 when it became a raging river and flooded several houses down the street. “Give oh give away!” indeed.
I didn’t make the connection that the song is about having charity and being cheerful at all.
Love One Another
Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam and I Am Like a Star
I Hope They Call Me On a Mission
Pioneer Children Sang as they Walked
Saturday is a Special Day
I could go on. Either by misunderstanding the lyrics or taking a song too literally I think I missed out on the meaning of about 50% of what I sang in Primary. Some of you have probably diagnosed me with a particular mental defect at this point. If you have please share… Another possibility is that while these songs are written for children to sing they weren’t really written with children in mind. Instead some adult needed to rhyme with “deed” and decided to insert “creed” without regard to whether little minds would digest it.
How about you? When you look back on your childhood do you see a gaggle of misunderstandings? The odd thing to me is that at the time I never thought to ask my parents about all this stuff. I just assumed that I was understanding what I was supposed to. The idea that I was way off base never occurred to me. Prideful little kid that I was…
I wonder if it is worth trying to help my own children avoid similar pitfalls. I certainly don’t want them to think that they need to purchase a shalmannow, but there doesn’t seem to be much harm in misunderstanding most primary songs if you are in fact understanding the basic ideas such as that Jesus loves you and you should be nice to other people. By the way, I think that I did understand those messages.
I’m sure I’ll someday look back on this current phase of my life with a smile as well, laughing at all that I didn’t understand at this point.