Monday, March 23, 2009

"Finding Our Tongues" by Dean Falk

I've been reading "Finding our Tongues: Mothers, Infants & The Origins of Language" by Dean Falk. I've encountered the "putting the baby down" theory a few other times. In summary, our ancestors lost the ability to grasp and hang on to their mothers as mothers swung from trees and gathered food in the forest. Primates rarely vocalize to infants because the infant is usually attached. However, if the infant is dislodged or left then the infant cries and the mother returns to pick the infant up. Anthropologists' studies of hunter and gatherer societies (what few there are left), found mothers used slings to keep infants attached and that when they had to "put the baby down" they would have to reassure the baby and how was this done? That's right, singing, vocal soothing melodies that say, "I'm here and you are OK." Falk believes that these melodic vocalizations led to the first baby talk. And that first baby talk/sing played a crucial prehistoric role in "kindling the first sparks of language." Motherese or these melodic vocalizations are found across all cultures and are the first steps in language acquisition.

There's more, but why am I writing this here?
1. I miss singing to Caitlin, holding her and singing. It didn't matter if she was sleeping or awake, I sang whenever I could. I left a digital recording of her songs so she would know I was there when I wasn't. I sang her to heaven when she passed, I didn't sing for a very long time after she died. I sing at her grave sometimes or play her songs and think, "Do you hear me? Do you know that even in death I am here with you?" I guess most view the dead singing/saying to those left behind, "I am here with you, I'll never leave." But, I'm more worried about Caitlin knowing that I am with HER.
2. It breaks my heart that some adults view "baby talk' and "singing lullabies" as not needed, or they are embarrassed or believe they are "tone-deaf," or they just don't know that that fabulous CD by the latest children's star is not what your baby needs. Your baby needs YOUR voice, your love, and your interaction. Please, sing. Our children need to know that we are here and they are OK. Your voice performs the amazing feat of taking the intangible (love) and making it tangible (real physical vibrations that move through air).


  1. This is so beautiful. My strongest memories of childhood are of both my parents singing to me. From my dad it was "You Are My Special Angel" and my mom sang "All the Pretty Little Horses."

    I even remember the songs they sang to my younger brother. I'm sure that your sweet Caitlin hears you, and knows you are with her.

    Thank you for your kind comment on my blog.
    Happy ICLW!

  2. She knows. Love is stronger than any other force on earth, even death. So while it can't stop death it supercedes it. I find it beautiful you still sing to her.

    And I agree wholeheartedly. Sing to your baby, talk to them, hum in their ear... anything to comfort them and tell them you are there. We sing to Quinlon all the time. So much so that he has started singing to us at times. It's amazing.

  3. Interesting book you are reading.

    I am not a singer, never have been. With that said I love to sing in the car off tune where no one else knows. I did not know, or give much thought to the idea of singing to Liam after he was born.

    Turns out I did sing to him. The one I would sing was "you are my sunshine" over and over while looking to the sky, hopeing the tune was stretching beyond time and space, to reach my sweet boy. Somethings are just hardwired into us I suppose.

  4. I sang to both my babies from the beginning. I admit I was a little self-conscious at the very beginning when Henry was in the NICU, but I got over it. Both my babies have a special song that I made up just for them; both songs name them repeatedly. Henry's song was a litany of people who loved him; Kathleen's song tells about her arrival and the history of her name.

    I sing throughout the day about whatever we are doing--and yes, especially when I have to put her down.

  5. These are some very beautiful thoughts. I sing to my baby in-utero all the time because I'm convinced that it will help him/her to recognize me and be comforted by me after he/she is born.

    I'm sorry for your loss. I hope you are able to find some peace one day.


  6. Singing is a beautiful thing. I believe that your beautiful Caitlin hears you. I, also, believe that she sings to you. Her singing is in your heart. She loves you and she knows you love her to. You are a great mom to your daughter.

  7. What a beautiful post. My oldest (he's 12 now) doesn't want me to sing to him anymore but he still remembers the songs I sang all the time.

    I do believe your Caitlin hears you and recognizes the love.


  8. Caitlin hears you. She knows what's in your heart and mind, and she hears her mother singing beautiful songs to her. xx

  9. This is beautiful. I will sing more. I promise.