walkin in the sunshine

by renegademama

The first time I heard Barney I knew he was out of the question and I think I listened to about 3 minutes of Teletubbies before determining that whoever created those little beasts should stop inflicting his bad acid trips on the rest of the world. I mean the stuff is simply ludicrous. Not to mention weird. And what about those kid-focused “bands” with the twenty-something dudes jumping around singing meaningless drivel about trains and being nice to people. ‘The Wiggles’ I think they’re called? Vomit.

I used to think that having kids required me to give up my own music, at least when the kids were around. The problem is that they’re always around. I’m way too selfish to listen to Raffi all day, and I love my music. Besides, it isn’t like we’re listening to TuPac.

The result? My kids listen to adult music. When I’m feeling deep, I try playing classical music in the car, but I find it doesn’t adequately drown out the sound of my kids fighting, so I usually stick to rock-and-roll.

Over the years some basic rules have evolved:

1. Some words, such as “hell,” may be stated if singing along to music, but can’t be repeated elsewhere, especially at school or other people’s houses (because that makes mama look bad and who wants that?). This rule came up because one of our favorite songs ever is the Rolling Stones’ ‘Hangfire’ and clearly the best part is Mick yelling “Say what the hell, say what the hell!” I can’t deprive my kids that sort of awesomeness.

2. If mama or daddy says “it’s an adult topic,” in response to your question about a particular lyric (e.g. ”high on cocaine”), you may not press further for a definition. Topic must be dropped immediately.

3. When somebody else’s kid is visiting, mama and daddy get to choose the music.

So the drawback is that my kids occassionally walk around singing slightly embarrassing tunes. Rocket the other day was quietly singing to himself “Thank you, Jack Daniels, Old Number Seven, Tennessee whiskey got me drinkin’ in heaven.” It was funny. Mac and I glanced at each other and smiled when he wasn’t looking.

Ava, though, is older, so it gets a little more complicated, especially since she’s surrounded by Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber fans. She recently told me about “a singing contest during recess” in which her friends voted for the boy she was competing against rather than her, which hurt her feelings. The thought crossed my mind that I could figure out who the judges were and kick ’em. But I kept that one to myself and asked  her what she sang. “”Dead Flowers’ by the Rolling Stones” she says.

Sweet, sweet girl.

I smile at the image of my 9-year old in her little plaid uniform, standing in the middle of the playground, belting out old school Mick Jagger during recess.  Then I remember the lyrics and hope she didn’t choose the part about being in a basement with a needle and a spoon. This triggers another thought so I ask: “What did the other kid sing?” She looks at me with an incredulous eye roll, responding “the Phineas and Ferb theme song.” This is just gettin’ better.

Now perhaps not every mother would be tickled to hear of her kid singing inappropriate Rolling Stones songs to unsuspecting classmates, but I gotta admit it was one of my prouder parenting moments. I mean, the kid has taste.

I’m secure with this decision. Well no, I’m not. But thankfully, like all parenting decisions, in just twenty short years I’ll know whether or not it was the wrong choice. You know, when it’s too late to change my mind. Word.

But when I really think about it, it’s more a matter of differing values (perhaps I have none?), because I am indeed much more concerned with exposing my kids to real music than I am worried about them hearing an occasional swear word, mature nuance, or (in some cases apparently) a blatant drug allusion.

And it isn’t so much the sound of that mainstream kids music that irritates me any way. It’s the insidious lack of soul. It’s the fact that it’s canned, contrived, created with the distinct objective of roping my kids in so they’ll guilt trip me into buying the matching lunch box at Target. And I don’t think you have to be an adult to appreciate a great tune. That idea is insulting to children, as is the assumption that kids should only be exposed to kid-geared music because they can’t ‘understand’ more. I’ve found quite the opposite to be true. The first time Ava heard the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple,” she said “that man has the kindest voice I’ve ever heard. Let’s listen again.” She totally got it.

Based on my kids changing requests, I see them developing their own tastes and love of music. What appeals to them on a given day changes, and I wonder what part of their little souls are being touched at that moment by a particular sound. Right now Rocket’s favorite song is “Float On” by Modest Mouse and Ava’s is “Miss Ohio” by Gillian Welch.

And so I guess we’ll go on “walking in the sunshine” with Jerry, our favorite heroin addict.

8 Comments | Posted in unenlightened parenting techniques. | January 29, 2011
  • Teresa

    And kids music isn’t all that happy, either — kids falling down hills, cradles falling out of trees, mice getting their tails cut off…who needs that?

    • renegademama

      HA! This made me laugh. Very true, Teresa. Some of it is very bleak AND annoying!

  • Franki Halloran

    Ava and Rocket know more songs from more genres than I do! In fact, at their ages, I didn’t even know what genre meant! Here’s the thing… they’re going to hear all the bad stuff eventually anyway. I like that you’re teaching them that some of it’s “adult stuff” and to ignore it, which they do, by the way.
    I hated Barney, too. Do you remember singing “Hotel California” in the (tiny) back seat of the Porsche 930 on our way to Mendocino?
    As far as I can figure, that song was about cocaine addiction, but I’m still not sure.
    Love you.

  • sarah

    i’m going to say it again: i.love.this.post! my little is only 7 months old, but my husband and i were just talking about this. i refuse to deprive my child of good music just because it isn’t for children. i may have to steal your rules when mine gets a little older!

    • renegademama

      Steal my rules! No problem! (they work pretty well…). And thanks for the compliments. Looking forward to reading more of your blog. Cheers.

  • Nicole

    Yes! It makes me so happy when my 2 year old says, “Wanna listen Bob Mareeey!!” All I’ve got to say to your kids music taste is… Kasey Jones, you better watch your speed. 😉

  • Jahn Ghalt

    Having read a half-dozen renegade-blog-posts, I can’t help but think you are a kindred-parent of sorts (and your children are very fortunate, indeed)

    My ex and I may have been even more “libertine” than you. We (I for sure) never considered “kid music” when thinking about what to play (and especially not “kid food” – #E!L NO! )

    Early in our childs’ lives the Weird Al compilation “The Food Album” got heavy rotation.

    This confused our four-year-old daughter when she first heard the actual, non-parody, La Bamba.

    (“that’s LASAGNE!”, she protested)

    We found the MPAA utterly useless – “what was R-rated about that movie?” was a litany between us.

    (even now in my older, more-“desensitized” state, there are violent PG-13 films I may never be “old enough to watch”)

    Certainly, the kids seeing casual nudity in film never concerned us.

    By now, they (at 22 and 20) and a few of their friends are ‘film snobs’ – and make very reliable recommendations to me. I regard that as just rewards for not “sheltering” them with respect to culture-consuming.

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