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Beverly Beckham

From the very young, that old try, try again

Beverly Beckham reports that her 2-year-old grandson Luke sings every waking hour, and, if he forgets a lyric, he just cheerfully starts over. Beverly Beckham reports that her 2-year-old grandson Luke sings every waking hour, and, if he forgets a lyric, he just cheerfully starts over. (Beverly Beckham)
By Beverly Beckham
Globe Columnist / August 7, 2011

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Luke is 2 and sings all the time. “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’’ usually, but he knows Beatles tunes, too, “You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello,’’ “This Boy,’’ “From Me to You.’’

Luke, my grandson, wakes up singing and he falls asleep singing, and all day long, as he’s up and down the steps and up and down the slide, as he’s stuffing a banana in his mouth, or pushing a baby carriage around in circles, or taking a bath or strapped in his car seat, he sings.

Last summer, he hummed. He didn’t have many words then, but this didn’t get in the way of his songs. What he lacked in vocabulary, he made up for in enthusiasm. He hummed constantly. We videotaped him playing with a deck of cards and humming, sitting in his high chair and humming, pulling a quacking plastic duck around the house and humming.

Now the boy is a pro, so familiar with “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’’ that he changes it up and sings “Bah Bah Black Sheep’’ sometimes, or “A B C D E F G,’’ because the tunes are similar and he knows them and likes to surprise us and himself, choosing at random, then beaming at our applause.

“Sing for us, Luke,’’ we say. And he does.

It’s taken him a long time to learn what he knows. He’s practiced. He sang when he thought no one was listening. He sang to videos on the computer and TV. He sang along with every singing bear and talking doll and every one of his musical toys. He sang with the radio. And he sang every time his father took out his guitar.

He still does.

Yet, despite all this practice, Luke misses words sometimes. He’ll get stuck in mid-sentence or midsong. But he rolls with this. He grins and says, “No. No. No.’’ And he starts over. He doesn’t retreat when he falters. He doesn’t lose confidence and say, “I can’t do this.’’ He doesn’t make the part bigger than the whole and stamp his foot and moan, “Why can’t I do anything right?’’ He makes a mistake, then continues to try.

So does my granddaughter Charlotte. She’s 4 and determined to master the monkey bars this summer. So every chance she gets, she’s outdoors climbing and hanging from swing sets.

She made it all the way across the monkey bars in my back yard last week. It was her first time. Her mother stood under her and supported her legs for a while. But then Charlotte said, “Let go,’’ and suddenly there she was swinging from bar to bar, all by herself. Then she did it again. And again. And again. And again.

She was a smiling, flying Wallenda.

Until she fell.

She landed on grass so she didn’t get hurt. But she lost her confidence.

(“No. I lost my balance,’’ is what she said.)

Now it’s back to square one. “You can do it, Charlotte! Come on. Let go. You did it before. Swing those hips.’’

It’s been more than a week since she breezed across those bars with a cheeky grin, but she’s still at it, trying, climbing the ladder, reaching for the bars, jumping up and hanging down.

But then she gets scared.

“Hold me, Mom,’’ she says. “Don’t let go. Hold my legs.’’

She’ll do it in time. She’ll be flying across the monkey bars any day now. Because she’ll stick to until she does it again.

Kids are like this. They don’t expect to master things immediately. They’re used to doing something over and over because that’s how they’ve learned - to sit up, to crawl, to walk, to talk, to know all the words to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,’’ to make it across the monkey bars.

They’re used to failing, too.

We grow up and forget all the time and effort that’s necessary to do something well. And that even when you try and try, you sometimes fail. We want to be able to sit down and play the piano after a few lessons, hit a home run after a few times at bat, run a marathon, speak Spanish, master a computer after a few tries.

And when we don’t, we say we can’t. And we give up.

Luke and Charlotte, like most little kids, just keep on singing and keep on trying. It’s a lesson they teach us every moment of every day, while we are teaching them.

Canton resident Beverly Beckham can be reached at bevbeckham@aol.com.

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