What Do “Twinkle Twinkle,” Oxytocin, & the Sacculus Have in Common With Family?
I know, I have a long title and now I start with a story…it’s all wrong. But stay with me, please… My family has a long history with “Twinkle, twinkle little star.” It all started when my children were little and could not pronounce “twinkle.” Instead, it came out as “tinkle.” Being the loving father I am, I rewrote the lyrics so “tinkle” would fit. My wife was less than pleased when my daughters sang “tinkle, tinkle little star, please don’t tinkle on my arm; up above the world so high, please don’t tinkle in my eye.” Well…in my defense, I didn’t think the words would stick. And, they did eventually learn the “correct words” to the song. That became evident when a kamikaze bird did a nose dive into our picture window. My youngest daughter found the bird after it had sacrificed his life in that last heroic dive into our picture window. She took me to the bird and informed me that we needed to give it a proper burial. So, with the dignity becoming such a heroic act, we gathered the bird (feathers and all) and led a procession into the flower garden. After painstakingly preparing a final resting place for our new found friend, we carefully laid him to rest and covered him with dirt “from which we come.” Throughout this process, my daughter squatted near the grave like a catcher. With a final pat of the shovel on the covered grave, she stood up and solemnly placed her hand on her heart as she sang the dignified chorus of “Twinkle, twinkle little star…” and we paid our final respects to the lost bird. At least she sang the “twinkle, twinkle” version.
Really, we sing a lot in our house. We make up words and music just to say we are getting ice cream for dessert. Sometimes we even sing seriously. And, sometimes we sing together. I really didn’t think much about this until my wife showed me this article entitled “Singing and Psychological Well-Being” (Click here to read full article). Now I have justification for singing together. Singing in a group, singing together, has a wonderful impact on our health. It stimulates the sacculus in the inner ear, which brings immediate enjoyment. It releases oxytocin, helping to form a bond of trust and empathy among those involved. Singing together also helps people cope with difficulties, even tragedies. It builds resilience and helps us successfully navigate those tragic moments of life. So, we often sing at funerals. When terrorists struck the U.S. on 9/11 or when we witnessed the tragedy of a senseless school shooting, people came together and sang as part of the healing process.
Yes, singing together brings us together. It helps us navigate difficulties. It bonds us in trust and empathy. It builds intimacy. And, it’s fun! Even Sesame Street knew this—they brought celebrities together to encourage us all to “Sing, sing a song…” (Check it out here). So, why not enjoy these benefits as a family? Turn on the radio, pull out a song book, or make up your own words (la, la, la, lala)…just sing a song together and enjoy the growing intimacy it produces.