Sunday, March 30, 2008

Drum Circle

I am not a lover of Sunday nights, when the weekend wanes and the week waxes. When family time transitions into work time.

Tonight is the last night of Spring Break. And at the end of a nice break, I tend to pout. But I also have some pretty terrific times with my kids to think about as I set the coffee maker, pack lunches, and set out clothes for the next day.

For example:

My eldest daughter and I had an afternoon with her new baby cousin and aunt and uncle after her VCUG. She was exhausted and so was baby boy, and they napped together on the couch while my little sister and I enjoyed being moms together--a new dimension to our shared experiences.

I had a wonderful morning at Sea World with my two-year-old and her younger cousin, reminding me of the value of spending individual time with each of my daughters. At some point I wondered what we would see there besides Clydesdales (we always head first to the HORSES, ironically, at SEA World), since she was afraid of some key exhibits:

"How about penguins, kiddo? Want to go in there?"
Daughter pokes head around corner to peer inside Penguin Encounter entrance. Shakes head:
"Nope. I scared, Mama."
"What about Polar Bear Arctic Adventure?"
Daughter hears sounds coming from Polar Enclave, stops in tracks:
"Scary, Mama. I scared!"

I somehow talked her into seeing the sharks (really folks, it's PENGUINS we should fear) and into watching the Seal and Otter Show.

She chattered with me as we roamed the park, like my little toddler friend who'd come to town for the day. Her cousin was a smiling, rather silent accessory--sleepy and willing to go wherever we strolled him. As she ate a bowl of ice cream in a Commemorative Shamu Cup before we left the park, my daughter sighed and licked her spoon and said, "Thank you, Mommy..."

On Friday my girls and I checked out a Drum Circle I saw advertised at my youngest daughter's school, a preschool/intervention program where "typically developing" children are integrated with peers who have been diagnosed with autism. A man named Sundiata runs a weekly music program there, and I learned that he was the link to the Drum Circle. This guy has built a career out of drumming with kids, particularly kids with struggles. How amazing is that?

I had never been to a Drum Circle, though I have taken my daughters to an African drumming class at our city's multicultural center from time to time. This drumming event (held at a residential school/treatment center for troubled youth) was a kick-off to a study being conducted on the effects of drumming on children's stress.

Concentric circles of chairs were set up for 150-200 people, each chair equipped with a drum, maraca, cowbell, or shaker. The founder of Remo drums, Remo himself! was there--and the different kinds of drums available for everyone, anyone, to use were SO COOL.

So, it's pretty hard not to become a Drum Circle Disciple. Like the grey-haired lady with funky braids who was up and dancing, uninhibited, from the start. I don't have a lot of rhythm, but I could feel myself Getting It the more I drummed and grooved.

The great thing about kids? They are born without inhibition and with a natural rhythm that seems to diminish over time, until you're 40 and stuck in your chair wondering who's watching you bang on your drum like a happy fool. I loved it when my little two-year-old's hips swayed to the beat and when my eldest daughter joined the conga line. I loved watching the kids from the center breakdance in the middle of the circle, do the Worm, and cheer each other on.

I can't wait for our Summer Concert in the Park Series, when neighbors of all ages dance barefoot to jazz, bluegrass, and funk.

But summer break is Not Here Yet.

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