Simple Gifts

Both of the kids had learned a new song in music class, “Simple Gifts,” and wanted to sing it to me.  Foolishly I suggested that they sing it simultaneously.  What was I thinking?

The Girl: Noooooo!  I don’t want to sing it with my brother.  He’ll mess it up.
The Boy: But I know it.
TG: He doesn’t know it well enough.  He just started learning it.  I don’t want to sing with him.
TB: If I don’t sing with my sister, can I sing by myself?
Me: Sure.  Why don’t you two take turns singing me the same song.
TG: I’ll go first. Tis a gift to be simple… Well, I don’t really remember all of it.
Me: That’s OK.  Sing what you can remember.
TG: I know more than my brother does.
Me: OK, but that’s not relevant right now.  Just sing what you do know and stop trying to make your brother feel bad.
TB: Yeah.  Stop trying to make me feel bad.
TG: I am not trying to make you feel bad. … But you don’t know it, cuz your class just learned it.
TB: Well, so.
TG: Eeeehhhh. (This is supposed to sound like a drawn out long a sound.  They both have recently been doing this.  I don’t know how else to spell it.) Don’t say so.
TB: Eeeehhh.  Stop trying to make me feel bad.
Me: Are you planning on singing?  If yes, please continue.
TG: Tis a gift to be simple…

At this point, The Girl sang the parts of the song that she knew and made it through to the end.

Me: That was lovely, Sweetheart.  Your turn, Son.

The Boy pulled out a folded up sheet of paper from his backpack.

TG: Are those the words to the song?
TB: Yes.
TG: How did you get the words to the song on your paper?
TB: I just have them.
TG: Do you even know the tune of the song?
TB: No, but I have the words.  And I’m going to sing them.  Right now.

The Girl was beside herself and alternately lamented and growled through The Boy’s rendition of “Simple Gifts.”  His version of the song was more spoken word than it was singing.  If I hadn’t been driving, I would have snapped when he finished.

TG: Give me your paper.
TB: Why?
TG: So I can sing all the right words of the song.
TB: I’ll give you the paper if you let me sing with you.  We can share it.
TG: Nooooooo!  You’ll mess it up.  You don’t even know the tune.
TB: But it’s my paper.
TG: Give me the paper.
TB: If you let me sing with you.
TG: Noooooooo!  That’s not fair!!
Me: What’s not fair?
TG: He won’t give me the paper.
Me: Why should he?  It’s his paper.
TG: Fine.  Fine.  Just fine.  Fine.  You can sing with me.  Fine.  Just let me hold the paper.
TB: Let’s share holding the paper.
TG: Aaargh!

I heard the sounds of violent paper rustling.

TB: Eeeeeehhhh!  Give me back my paper!
TG: I’ll hold it and we can sing together.  Tis a gift to be simple….

More paper rustling ensued.  Plus, I’m pretty sure I heard flesh beating flesh, but I was driving and simply couldn’t turn around to verify my hypothesis.

Me: Either both of you hold it or your brother will hold it.  It’s his paper.
TG: Fine.  Fine.  Fine.  Just Fine.  Aargh.
Me: Excuse me?
TG: Here.  You can hold it.

Finally, they sing the entire song in unison. The last line of the song says: Then we’ll be in the valley of love and delight.

Oh, they were in a valley, alright, but I’m not sure it was one of love and delight.  Simple gifts indeed.



  1. I burst out laughing when the boy pulled the paper from his backpack. A typical case of an older sister with a superiority complex getting put back in her place. (For the record, I think all older sisters have superiority complexes. I know my daughter does and I did. Sample size of two but I will make the generalization nonetheless.) This was a very entertaining exchange. Thank you!

    • I think older siblings in general have superiority complexes, although my sample size is just one. I actually laughed, too, when The Boy pulled out the paper. He unfolded it slowly and lovingly just to torment her.

    • I was cracking up when it happened. I couldn’t believe he pulled out that paper. It seemed just like something my brother would have done, too.

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