One day in the future, hopefully many decades from now, I can picture myself rocking manically in an old folks’ home (or possibly a mental asylum), still haunted by the sinking realisation that the the Wheels On The Bus may never stop going round and round. Or that the Grand Old Duke of York will never stop marching his troops to the top of the hill. Or that I will be Row, Row, Rowing My Boat gently down the stream until i’m clinically insane.
I’m not there quite yet, but thanks to the endless cycle of ceaselessly cheerful torture inflicted on parents by nursery rhymes, I’m inching closer by the hour. At first it all seemed so cute and innocent. My little boy Sonny‘s first play mat came with a battery powered plastic tower that blasted out a lively tune every time he touched it. How wonderful, we thought!
Then he got a mechanical mobile for his cot that churned slowly above his head, flashing lights into his eyes while flooding his eardrums with the Twinkle Twinkle of Little Stars and the Baa Baaing of Black Sheep. Lovely, we thought, now we can all enjoy nursery rhymes in two rooms of the house!
Then he received a bear as a gift that seemed to grind out an upbeat tune every time someone looked at it the wrong way, followed by a car seat attachment that burst into life whenever we went over a speed bump, and a cheap bouncy chair that chimed a high pitch whine at us if we so much as breathed near it. It was all becoming a little too much.
But it wasn’t enough for Sonny. He wanted more. Soon we discovered the LittleBabyBum videos on YouTube, which allow your infant to watch slick animated nursery rhymes for literally hours on end. Incey Wincey Spider soon crept into our house, Jack and Jill felt like they were climbing all over us, Ding Dong Bell tolled every few seconds (and will be tolling in my nightmares for many years), and I’m tempted to get Bingo the Dog’s name tattooed backwards across my forehead just in case I ever forget it and he comes looking for me.
Then, just to ruin those rare and precious moments away from home when the nursery rhyme juggernaut appeared to have been derailed by a lack of battery powered plastic devices and Wifi black spots, along came the relentless Kidloland app. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good and an invaluable tool if you need to settle a screaming baby on a long car journey, but you need to sacrifice your sanity as a result. With a seemingly endless catalogue of nursery rhymes and learning songs at your fingertips, you’ll never be more than a few seconds from Old MacDonald’s Farm, or Mary’s Little Lamb, or Humpty Dumpty’s broken crown, or a Hey Diddle Diddling Cat and Fiddle.
I’ve been introduced to 5 Little Ducks, 3 Blind Mice, 3 Little Pigs and 5 Litte Monkeys; and although someone keeps trying to assure me there are No Monsters Under My Bed, I feel like someone’s out to get me.
And the worst thing is, while this oddly addictive nursery rhyme cult feels like it’s holding my hand and guiding me step by step towards the loony bin, it’s making my son happier than ever. He just stares at the iPad screen or listens to the tunes in a trance, usually with his eyes and mouth wide open as though he’s been hypnotised by a supernatural force.
Maybe he has. Maybe we all have. But the tragic thing is we need nursery rhymes, and they know it. They’ve taken over my life, and If they wanted to I’m pretty sure they could take over the world.