Rhythm & Rhyme

Waiting in the rain in the car at the school, marque 5 breaks into verse:

This old man
He played six
He played knick knacks
On my dicks
With a knick knack paddy whack
Give a dog a bone
This old man came rolling home!

Knick knack

Pitch perfect, fresh faced straight from his junior infant class, this four year old chimes his insidious rhyme. There is no-one to impress with his impish take on it. We’re waiting for the brothers to emerge from their classroom labours. They would kill themselves laughing and then tell him not to sing it in school. Much as I’d like to now. There’s a niggle though. Something to do with the way he seems to be singing it just to himself, no audience or giggles necessary.

I try not to say a thing. Drawing attention to it might reinforce it and he’ll be singing it merrily all day long. But then I wonder. Where did he learn the original rhyme? We’ve been pretty remiss on the whole singing nursery rhymes with the kids thing. Despite how good it’s supposed to be for them. Despite the fact that it was a strong recommendation for marque 4’s speech development. We packed in a few the week of that suggestion and forgot about it ever since. It seems quaint and old fashioned and out of sync. It seems to be more about parents reminiscing than anything much else. Or maybe we’re just lazy.

Anyhow the chimes of the four year old have my mind a-whirr, as it were. That dirty old man, playing tricks and knick knacks on dicks and rolling home drunk as a skunk afterwards. The bastard.

‘Who taught you that song?’ and I’ve my fingers crossed that he doesn’t start to talk about some dubious geezer who has somehow slipped beneath our radar.
‘What song?’
‘The one you were just singing.’
‘That’s not a song’.
Patience is called for.
‘What is it then?’
‘That’s just something I taught myself’ he says and begins the verse all over again. The verse with the six.

My antennae sharpened now, I can imagine subtext everywhere. This afternoon marque 4 is reading to me with delightful fluidity. His book for today is Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham. I am smiling at him and winking my encouragement as he does not stumble over the rhyming rhythmic words. Maybe the speech therapist had a point. Then I actively listen.

Would you? Could you?
In a car?..
I would not, could not in a tree,
Not in a car! You let me be…
Could you, would you,
On a train?..
Not on a train! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! Sam! Let me be!

I would not, could not, in a box.
I could not, would not, with a fox….

Would you, could you,
In the rain?…
Could you, would you,
With a goat?

Bloody hell. ‘That’s enough now for today. Excellent reading. Well done. Your teacher will be so pleased with you’.
‘But I want to read on, just a few more pages, please’.

Would you, could you,
On a boat?…
(Perhaps, Dr Seuss, perhaps).

The blurb on the back of the book states that Dr Seuss makes reading FUN! It’s all about the rhythm and the rhyme and the repetition.

That it is.

Ellen Kelly

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