Music plays in our home, car, and at the playgrounds we visit, through our computers, phones and television sets. With a soundtrack following us, and our kids involved with most of what we do, we could not possibly listen to ‘their’ music all the time. We need to get a fix of music we like, and quite honestly, what they have come to enjoy, although they are kids, and absolutely prefer jumping around to The Wiggles, over running in circles to Tool, although I have video footage to prove a trance like state they put A. into one afternoon – she seemed happy.
While listening to ‘our music’, there have been more than a few occasions that I have asked myself ‘Should I be listening to this with them?’ and for whatever reason, perhaps selfish, I kept my music on, even though I questioned the contents appropriateness for a four and two-year old. Now, let me be clear, I am not talking about listening to Rage Against the Machine scream the ‘fuck’ word twenty times in a rhythmic row, nor are we driving around to half the stuff on the radio that “sings” about being sexy and ‘dropping it like it’s hot’ (Did I just date myself?). No, I’m talking about Modest Mouse uttering a frustrated fuck, Lou Reed talking about a transvestite, or MIA wanting to *sound of cash register and three gun shots* ‘and take your money’. Am I justifying it? Because I ‘like’ it, it is somehow “better” than other questionable material out there?
Fortunately, we have yet to have our kids swear, or repeat anything that we may deem inappropriate for a child to say, as a result of listening to our music, which, with how insanely curious children are, blows my mind. No, they are not angels, they talk about ‘poopy butts’ and other words having to do with either going to the bathroom or being naked, but they haven’t said “Dad, why does the ‘morning look like shit’?” after we listen to the Bright Eyes. Have I tricked myself into believing that because our kids aren’t repeating the words, that they are simply not hearing them? Or by not drawing attention to it, by not gasping and cringing, do I let them understand the world at their level. Like their exposure to a drunk Uncle at our family gatherings who utters nonsensical foul comments – adults ignore him and the kids think he’s funny, they have no idea what he’s saying, and they dismiss it as an anomaly that makes them giggle. I am sure they all walk away shaking their heads and mutter under their collective breath “What an anomaly.” I think they listen to the sounds, and clue in on what they know or identify with, much like watching a movie. A. bops along to Kate Nash saying ‘you never listen to me’ and is convinced, and after much discussion I left it alone, that she is saying ‘you know how to listen to me’. We let her labor under that illusion.
My Mom listened to Lionel Richie and I never ‘danced on the ceiling’, my Dad played Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and I never, well, hit anybody with a hammer, and I listened to the Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams (are made of these)’ at the age of 6 and had no idea what I was reciting into the candlestick holder.
What does my Papa Sense tell me?
Be prepared to answer any questions that may come your way as a result of your words or actions. Language is important – do not shy away from teaching kids that there are words that we use in some settings and not others, and some that we don’t use at all. Everything in time – kids have a way of asking the questions when they are ready for some type of answer, age appropriate. And lastly, because it is a small fraction of the music that we listen to that may raise an eye brow, don’t draw attention to words that you don’t want to hear again, don’t make them taboo, we must arm our children with the realities of life, not clothe them in make-believe cocoons that will shatter when they are at school, on the playground, or anywhere that we are not.
What do you listen to when your kids are around? When have you cringed? Or, do you only listen to music that is kid friendly while around your kids? What is kid friendly?