My baby loves the Grateful Dead. Loves ’em so much that the quickest cure at our place for an onset of persistent fussiness is rockin’ Ariel in her daddy’s arms to "Touch of Gray,” “China Cat Sunflower," “Bertha," or any other GD tune of ancient or recent vintage.
And when baby won’t go to sleep or wakes in the wee hours of the night? Do I keep the lights down and walk baby back and forth, miles and miles in a soundless void? Do I struggle to outlast her, hoping she falls asleep on my shoulder before I fall asleep on my feet?
No way, José. We party. On goes the living room light. On goes the stereo. We pop in one of Daddy’s hundreds of live Dead tapes and dance, baby and Daddy. Works wonders. Baby’s asleep three to four times faster than any conventional method has yet yielded.
At first, my wife and I were inclined to try to get her to sleep just the way the books said. But I, particularly, was miserable about the prospects of any more nights without auditory or visual stimulation. It took just one musical test-run to see that I'd stumbled on a winner. In feet, the initial results were obvious in the first few minutes. Now dozens of subsequent successes have confirmed the method’s viability.
I do, however, have a theory about my success. Call it the Theory of Contagious Relaxation. Remember the last time you lay in bed unable to sleep? Remember how you got increasingly uptight with each passing minute about your chances of getting at least some shuteye before the alarm went off?
The self-sabotage works about the same way. I figure, when walking your baby. If you let her cries or the feet that it’s 3:00 a.m. get to you, the tension can't help but transmit to that little body.
My solution: use that principle to your advantage. I put on music that relaxes me and that I wouldn't mind listening to all night. I’m just dancin’ with my little girl, and what could be better than that?
I don't always put on the Grateful Dead for us — the Bhundu Boys, David Lindley arid El Rayo-X, and Bob Marley and the Wailers are also on our hit list. But I do always choose “body music," music that moves the body with its rhythms. Rhythms that are syncopated without being frenetic have a naturally relaxing effect on the body. Baby may not understand the lyrics she hears, but her muscles love that beat.
When I listen to electric music, I like the volume up where I can feel it. Certainly I would never play music so loud that baby’s hearing is endangered, but we listen to our Grateful Dead at considerably more than lullaby level.
It probably didn't hurt that within 24 hours after Ariel’s birth, I had her listening to the music that she now delights in. Psychological types might say I "conditioned" her, that I could just as easily have rocked her to the CBS Evening News.