Laura and my eldest daughter truly love music. They know all the words to most of the current hits from Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. I know this because we watch the videos on Youtube and listen to them constantly in the car. Yet, I don't really know any of the words other than a few lines from the particularly catchy choruses.
Excluding children's songs and our national anthem, I don't really know the words to any songs with one exception: The Gambler. I'm not entirely sure sure why, but I know every word to the great Kenny Rogers' The Gambler.
Maybe it's because that song has special meaning for me. It reminds me of my grandfather who passed away more than 20 years ago. It also reminds me of high school and singing around campfires with good friends who I rarely see anymore.
More recently, it reminds me of my children as newborns. I used to sing The Gambler to each of my girls as a lullaby. Partially because it's the only song I really know and partially because of the soothing softness of the melody.
Until today, I hadn't actually heard The Gambler since an ill-fated attempt a few months back to educate my family on rockabilly and classic rock through Youtube which resulted in a ban on all dad music choices.
On my way home this afternoon it came on the radio and I was immediately struck by the lyrics, but not in the traditional sense. Instead, I started thinking about how, as new parents, everything is unfamiliar and exhausting. Much like the character in the song who receives advice from the Gambler:
On a warm summer's eve / On a train bound for nowhere / I met up with the gambler / we were both too tired for sleep
There isn't a parent out there who doesn't know that exhausted feeling during the first few months. That moment when the baby has finally drifted off and you're lying there, so tired and so ready for sleep, but it just won't come.
So we took turns a-starin' / Out the window at the darkness / The boredom overtook us, / And he began to speak
Who doesn't remember those late nights, watching infomercials over and over again with the baby resting in your arms. If I never watch the SlapChop, Ninja or Magic Bullet again if will be too soon. I may not know the words to many songs, but I can recite almost every line from these.
He said, "Son, I've made a life / Out of readin' people's faces / Knowing what the cards were / By the way they held their eyes
Friends, other parents and grandparents who've already gone through the early stages understand and get it. Everyone hits that exhausted breaking point and everyone else who's gone through it can see it on your face.
So if you don't mind me saying' / I can see you're out of aces / For a taste of your whiskey / I'll give you some advice"
Taking advice during this stage is always a touchy subject and perhaps you need that whiskey more than they do but people often just want you to know that it gets better. Babies eventually sleep and at some point, so will you too.
So I handed him my bottle / And he drank down my last swallow / Then he bummed a cigarette / And asked me for a light / And the night got deathly quiet / And his face lost all expression / He said, "If you're gonna play the game, boy / You gotta learn to play it right
For most of us, we made the conscious decision to become parents but even if we didn't, now that we're in the thick of it, we need to do it the best that we can. Our children are depending on us to get it right.
You've got to know when to hold'em / Know when to fold 'em / Know when to walk away / And know when to run
Parenting, especially with babies, isn't always about being perfect. It's about knowing and reading the cues, including your own. It's about knowing when to stay strong and when to back away.
You never count your money / When you're sittin' at the table / There'll be time enough for countin' / When the dealin's done
Enjoy the ride because once they are out of that stage, you can't get it back.
These days I'm more like the Gambler than his silent travelling companion and can perhaps provide some wisdom of my own to new parents. However, I will miss those tender late night moments, singing softly to each of my three girls and every time I hear The Gambler it will remind me of them.
Do you have a song that reminds you of a stage with your children or a song that immediately reminds you of another special time in your life?