Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Music lessons: On using pop to parent

Our daughter is very much into music. Sure, there are the “Annie” songs, but she also loves the pop music she hears on the radio. As parents, we try to use every opportunity to impart life lessons, and no one ever said pop music can’t be an aid in this endeavor.

Case in point, our daughter’s former favorite song, Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.” This song is important because it teaches us that, in order to lure members of the opposite sex, we should gyrate in their direction like the 69-year-old lead singer of The Rolling Stones. Okay, so maybe that’s not the best lesson. In fact, our daughter used to just sing the chorus and dance all silly. Now I catch her singing it around the house, almost under her breath, lyrics like “I swear I’ll behave,” which, understanding the context of the song, makes me shudder. Also, the album version of this song, which is on the playlist I created for her, contains a curse word, and I have to turn the volume all the way down when it comes up as I’m driving. Other than those things, this is a great song for kids.

(As a side note, I listened to a lot of terribly profane rap as a teenager, but never in the car with my mom or dad. But I had some friends who would put on whatever they wanted while their parents were driving. I remember I was once in the back seat while my friend Mike put on the first Wu Tang Clan album while his mom was driving us to a basketball game. She just kept driving … no reaction whatsoever. I was like, “What is even happening right now? I cannot enjoy this! I am embarrassed to be here.” If my daughter ever pulls that, I have failed.)

And yes, she has a playlist. A Spotify playlist of her favorite songs that I put together for her and that we listen to on the way to school Friday mornings. We blast it really loud. When she asks me why I turn it down at red lights, I have to explain to her how important it is that nobody sees me belting out the chorus to Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” This is yet another pop song that essentially does the parenting for me. It teaches her the important lesson of not waiting around in vain while some indecisive boy attempts to waste her time. I am confident that if the day ever arises when some teenager tells her that he just needs some space, she can harken back to our Friday morning drives to school and remember what Taylor Swift told her. Now I just have to be careful that she never understands the difference between Taylor Swift the singer and Taylor Swift the real-life serial dater.

So it’s obvious I am doing my part as a parent. My wife doesn’t rock the playlist, but she also exercises her parenting duties via her favorite old school R&B radio station.

As a result, I am fairly confident our daughter is the only 3-year-old in the past 20 years whose unquestioned favorite song is Lisa Stansfield’s “All Around the World.” (“Been around the world and I, I, I/I can’t find my baby …”) She is mildly obsessed with the fact that the woman in this song lied to a boy and now can’t find him. I am not kidding that we have used this song as a parenting device for when she’s caught in a lie. Do you remember what happened to Lisa Stansfield when she lied to that boy? Do you want to be unable to find us one day to the point where you have to travel around the world? You don’t even have a passport. Now clean up your toys for real this time.

Indeed, as parents, we believe we should use everything at our disposal to shape and mold our children into the future leaders of this country, even random songs from the early 90s. But not Wu Tang Clan.

Never Wu Tang Clan.

You know what? Maybe don't listen her, actually. Ever again.

Note: This column appears in the 4/11 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/12 issue of the Peoria Times.

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