Silas goes to “preschool” at the child development lab for a local college. This sounds weird, but is actually a total win for everyone involved.
When I went to pick him up the other day, one of the college students excitedly came up to me, introduced himself, and shook my hand. He was practically shaking with excitement or nervousness or something. He said, “Is this your number?” and read my phone number off of a piece of paper. I thought he was going to ask if he could call me for something related to his research project (yes, my son is the lab monkey for a bunch of undergrads. Yes, it’s weird that my baby is someone’s homework. No, I don’t think they’re causing any permanent damage). Instead he said, “How did he learn that? It’s incredible for a kid that young to memorize ten numbers.”
I tried to explain that to Silas, they aren’t numbers, they’re words in a song. He couldn’t dial my phone number or write it down. This student didn’t get what I was saying at all, or maybe I didn’t understand his point. He was so fixated on Silas memorizing ten numbers–but he didn’t understand that Silas probably couldn’t memorize a string of ten random numbers.
Apparently what had happened was that his project involved finding out if kids knew their own address. So he asked Silas if he knew our address, and he said that he didn’t, but he know his mom’s phone number. Then he sang the guy the little song I taught him and Petra, which is just our phone number, including the area code, set to “Frere Jacque,” with clusters of numbers repeating on each line. (This is not my number, but for example: “three-oh-four, three-oh-four, eight-six-seven, eight-six-seven, five-three-oh-nine, five-three-oh-nine, That’s Mama’s phone. That’s Mama’s phone.”) The last line is just “that’s mama’s phone,” so if he was nervous or confused, he could sing this song to someone and they’d understand what this not-random string of numbers was.
We’re getting ready for a big trip, and when I was thinking about it months ago, the thing I was the most nervous about was getting separated from my kids in a crowded, but realistically pretty safe, public place. I taught Silas this little phone number song months ago. We review it every now and then. Both of my kids also knew, from about 18 months old, that my name isn’t “Mama,” and what they should tell people if they ask “What’s your mama’s (or daddy’s) name?” If we go to a new place, like a store, we sometimes talk about what he should do in the unlikely event that we would lose each other. I point out things like an employee uniform, or suggest that he try a mom with kids if he can’t find someone who seems to work at the store. I ask him what he would say or do, and always emphasize that he should sing the phone number song.
But, truth be told, I hadn’t been reviewing the phone number song much lately. I was just thinking that I should check in to see if he still knows it. Turns out, this college student checked for me, and he does. WOOT.
Can Silas actually memorize ten numbers? No. But even two-year-old Petra can learn a song (hahaha I really should get *her* to do the phone number song for this guy…). I’m the opposite of paranoid, but I still think it’s a good idea to make sure that your kid can give helpful information about how to reconnect.