Tuesday, May 19, 2009

School of Rock

It seems there are two schools of thought on what music you listen to with your kids. There are those who drive around all day with Raffi blaring for the sake of their children and there are those, myself included, that cannot bare to listen to kid's music. It actually makes me cringe to get into a car with sing-a-long music playing. I won't do it. And I think my children are better off for it.

Sure, my kids have all of those annoying CDs. We own Raffi, Laurie Berkner, and The Cat's Pajamas. And they do listen to them in their rooms, often at night when they are falling asleep. And, I will admit that on occasion, you will find the "Cars" or "High School Musical" movie soundtracks in my car. Yes, I will admit to listening to those on occasion and I am not ashamed to say that I may even know the words. But, they are music with actual content. They are not songs about baby whales or belly buttons. On most days though, if you were to hitch a ride with us, you would be listening to honest to goodness real music.

I've realized that the first song my 5 year old ever learned the words to was not a kid's song. Once when he was 2 we were in the grocery store and he started singing along with the Muzak, belting out the refrain "Catch My Disease". It didn't even occur to me that him singing was weird until an older woman passing us in the aisle started looking at him funny. It was too hard to explain that he was just singing along with the Ben Lee song that was playing overhead. I just let it go, but I was kind of proud of him that he knew the words, even if they were strange to hear out of context. My kids have been subjected to my taste in music their whole lives and I would have to say they are more comfortable with the music on the radio than any CD they may have in their room.

I love that my kids can name all four Beatles and can recognize a Fleetwood Mac song from the sound of Stevie Nick's voice. I love that my 2 year old will ask for Jack Johnson by name, even if his favorite songs are off the "Curious George" movie soundtrack. And, I'm also loving that they are discovering their own taste in music. Sure, this will evolve over time, but its cool to see my 2 year old grooving to the Beastie Boys and my 5 year old singing "Pour Some Sugar on Me". I've sparked an interest. They now ask me who the performer is with every song that comes on the radio, a test for my knowledge at times. And I quiz them on what instruments we can hear, which they are getting pretty good at identifying.

Should I be embarrassed that the first song my 2 year old knows the words to is "Brass Monkey" by the Beastie Boys? Or, that they both go around town quoting the local radio station's tag line "The Rock You Grew Up With" in the deepest voice they can muster up? I'm not. It is my music that we listen to, some of it current, some of it old, but I use it to teach them some popular culture. Last week we listened to Don McLean's "American Pie" in entirety. They came home that evening giving my husband a history lesson about Buddy Holly and his plane crash. This is how we pass the time in the car.

I would agree that if you were actually paying attention to the verse lyrics on some of their favorites, they may not be appropriate. But, they pick up the refrain and never hear or question the rest. So, I do take some pride in the fact that my 2 year old goes around the house singing "Hey Ho, Let's Go", quoting the Ramone's. And, I don't mind that my 5 year old likes to sing that he will "Rock You Like a Hurricane", quoting the Scorpions. I'm responsible for that. Music is something that my kids and I can share. Maybe as a mom, you really enjoy Raffi's greatest hits, but if not, expose your kids to something great. Let them see a part of you that existed before you made room in your life for G-rated things. In honor of the late Joey Ramone's birthday this week, put on some really great music and share it with your kids - whatever the genre may be. You can thank me later when your kids are humming your favorite song, instead of you cursing that you can't get Baby Beluga out of your head.

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