10:30am, AEST

A playground in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

Only the loudest and most frequency-extreme sounds can be heard over the drone of the air conditioners pumping exhaust fumes from the car park into the nearby shopping centre.

A small child is running. Away from his mother.

I’m there with a child too. I’m not at a playground without a child. I want that known.

My child is largely being ignored because I’m observing other people for artistic purposes, ie this very text.

The mother of running away child raises her voice and projects it across the park.

But no words emerge. Not real words, in any recognisable language, anyway.

The mother is scatting.

Loudly, nasally, almost in a screech; she scats.

I can’t tell you what syllables she spews at that child. Not because she made me sign an NDA (though she should have).

Because scat is momentary, oral, utterly unrecordable (unless you happen to have a recording device and any interest in recording scat).

You’re thinking what I’m thinking. Scat won’t bring this child back.

Now let me surprise you: scatting works.

In this one, very specific context.

The mother blurts another dozen scat-sounds, and her escaping child turns on his heel and returns to her instantly.

Had she tried to beckon her child back in a recognised language, I doubt that she would have succeeded.

Kids don’t give a fuck what we have to say. But scatting?

Scat parenting works.

Subscribe to permission to shine

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.