Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Children's Music Dilemma

I'm supposed to be writing this from a parent's point of view, so parents out there, let me ask you:

What music did you listen to as a teen-ager?

What music did you listen to after your first child was born?

What music do you listen to now?

How do those answers compare for you? 

For me, they're all vastly different.

Since my eldest daughter was born, there have been weeks--months, even--when I thought I would never again listen to anything but Kindermusik's "Zoo Train" (everyone sing hooray hooray we're going to the zoo today!). Or Veggie Tales "Silly Songs with Larry" (Saaaa-buuuuuu!). Or the Wiggles ("Hey there, shaky shaky!). 

I mean, I couldn't very well let the three-year-old listen to "Shake That Body" (especially after daddy saw her shaking her bottom in the pool while singing the refrain over and over and over and over again and nearly had a heart attack as he bellowed, "STOP SHAKING THAT BODY!") And there is not a single song on a Meatloaf album that does not raise . . . unwanted . . . preschooler questions: "What does he mean that he can see paradise by the dashboard light? Is he talking about heaven? Is he dying and going to see Jesus?" 

So what's a mom to do? If we listen to iTunes, evidently we're supposed to sit around and listen to music that will make us cry. I was downloading some songs the other day, and Genius, iTunes music-suggestion device, told me that I might like to download an entire playlist they call "Soccer Mom Chillout." I am not kidding when I tell you that there was not a single happy, upbeat song on that entire playlist. Granted, I like "Broken" by Lifehouse. I also like "The Riddle" by Five For Fighting. And "100 Years" is very moving. But if I downloaded that entire playlist and put it on in my van, I'd be a weeping puddle in thirty seconds. 

I mean, really, can you even read "Broken"'s lyrics without getting teary? "I'm falling apart/I'm barely breathing/With a broken heart/That's still beating/In the pain/There is healing/In your name/I find meaning."

How about "The Riddle?":   "Dad I'm big but we're smaller than small/In the scheme of things, well we're nothing at all/Still every mother's child sings a lonely song/So play with me, come play with me/And Hey Dad/Here's a riddle for you/Find the Answer/There's a reason for the world/You and I..."

There has to be a happy medium between the soundtrack of our children's lives and the soundtrack that iTunes proposes for us. Sure, it's nice to have a cathartic weep-fest sometimes. Mine is much more composed than my toddler's. But sometimes I want to dance (my high school soundtrack was, after all, Dirty Dancng). Sometimes I want to be angry (I often miss blasting Melissa Etheridge and Alanis Morissette). Sometimes I want to, oh, I don't know--twist and shout! Well, there's an idea. The Beatles are innocent enough. Hmmm . . . 

I guess the whole point of this post is to ask at what point parents get to reclaim, or reinstate, or revisit, our own musical lives without letting that music set a poor example for or badly influence our children. I'm a parent who values music for my child's development, but I do so because throughout my life I have always treasured music's ability to allow me to explore and develop my emotional life. And finding a balance between the kids' music and my own is a new challenge for me as I strive to discover who I am now that the babies are preschoolers who don't always want to sit still for lullabies, who don't want to play dancing games on the playroom floor, and who are "so totally over" the Wiggles. I see Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers lurking in the wings, and if I have to listen to them then I am SO going to have to introduce the kids to Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks. It seems only fair. 

2 comments:

Aimee Carter said...

It's an interesting thought Diane. I think I look at this as more of a musical journey where I am continuing to discover new music that I like. I have introduced my children to songs that I loved from my teenage years, and we have discovered some great new artsists that we can enjoy together. I don't think parents have to "feed" their children's musical taste wit everything Disney, there is a world of great music out there waiting to be discovered!

Anonymous said...

my kids and i have seem to find a very happy compromise with 'kids place live' on satellite radio. check it out, i find myself listening to kenny curtis, the morning dj, even when my kids aren't in the car!