Sweden is singing, and life with small children in Sweden is a life of song.
There is a reason that so many Swedes make it internationally – from ABBA to the Cardigans to Robyn to the Hives to name just a few (and not even getting into producers like Max Martin). This is a culture of singing – at the feast table on Midsummer Eve, at church (when people go to church), at school, at graduations, at Christmastime (both Lucia and Christmas), at home, with friends (but not in public, no, never in public).
You know that show The Singing Bee? Sweden has about five of those, Friday nights especially, seemingly one singing show after another – with random guests like politicians and comedians and actors belting out tunes in Swedish and English in beautiful voices.
The most popular summer TV institution? A sing-a-long show.
At open preschool, there is always a singing time. There is singing at daycare, singing at the library, singing all over town. Every Astrid Lindgren story comes with songs – Pippi, Emil, Bullerbyn, the lot. I know that life with small children in the U.S. also involves much singing – on TV, at preschool, on CDs. I know. But Sweden is different, a scale of musicality that Americans cannot match.
Quick. How many songs do you know by heart, not including Christmas carols?
Swedes know hundreds. I swear.
Now, I was not a singer. Yes, there was that 7th grade lunchtime chorus, but, really, my voice cracked from 13 to 28, and I can stay on key but only in my half-octave range.
But there I was belting out Swedish nursery rhymes yesterday at a new open preschool. I am particularly good at all the versions of Ba Ba Vita Lamm and itsy bitsy spider and the crocodile song and wheels on the bus and a few others.
But I have English speaking children. What about that? I am the primary source for all English and American things in their life. Can they grow up thinking you only sing in Swedish?
So on top of all this Swedish singing, I am perpetually singing in English. We have multiple nursery rhyme books, we have the Dr. Seuss singing book, we got all sorts of kids CDs and I try to learn all the words. This morning we actually put Dora the Explorer on Spotify – just to hear her sing.
I do not want to think about how many times I sang the 12 Days of Christmas in December. My daughter still uses “partridge in a pear tree” as a catchphrase.
But then the other day, I heard her singing under her breath as she played with some toy farm animals in her room. I leaned in. What was the song?
Mary Had a Little Lamb. In English. In tune.