Monday, December 01, 2008

Free to... have bad taste in music? I don't think so.

You can sum up the difference between my husband's upbringing and mine with one simple truth: His parents bought him "Free to be You and Me" when he was a kid and mine didn't.

I didn't even know there was such a thing as that album until I was in my 20's. True story.

Where his parents fostered individuality and free thinking, mine were of the mindset that things were done their way and we, my sister and I, had to deal with it. So while my husband was learning that "It's Alright to Cry", as so many other kids in our generation were, I was learning the words to Frank Zappa songs. Slightly inappropriate? You betcha. But at least I knew to avoid the yellow snow.

Not that my parents didn't supply us with some proper kids music. I had the standard issue plastic Mickey Mouse record player, with Mickey's finger as the needle, and an album or two of Disney favorites and compilations of oldies but goodies like "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" and "On Top of Spaghetti". But I also had the album from "Grease" the movie. Because, apparently, my parents saw no problem in a 7 year old belting out such lyrics as,

"Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee
Lousy with VIRGINITY."

And my personal favorite,

"You know that ain't no shit,
We'll be getting lots of tit,
in Grease Lightning"

By the grace of some higher power, I grew up fairly well-adjusted and in need of only the most basic of psychiatric care.

(Electro-shock therapy counts as "basic", right?)

But even though my musical taste is far, FAR, better than my husband's, I still feel as if there was some important part missing from my childhood. Which is why I recently bought "Free to Be" for Chicky and C.C on iTunes.

Well that, and I downloaded "Hot Potato" the other day - a song Chicky had never heard the original of before, instead she knew our bastardized version that we made up years ago to get her into the bath tub that went something like,

"Naked baby, naked baby,
Naked tushy, naked tushy,
Naked baby, naked baby,
Has a naked,
A naked, naked, tushy."

- and she looked totally perplexed to hear these unfamiliar men singing about "Mashed Bah-nah-nah's" instead of naked baby booties.

Personally, I think it's important for kids to listen to age-appropriate music at least some of the time. There's crucial life lessons to be learned in those songs. Lessons I just don't have the energy to teach myself.

Yeah, yeah. Share with your friends. Hug a tree. Don't beat up your sister. Now run along while mommy watches "The Real Housewives of Atlanta".

However, if I can take away anything from my fucked up childhood, it is that children can learn to appreciate all sorts of music at a young age. I'm amazed, no, dumbfounded by all the parents I have spoken to who have told me they only listen to children's music in the car when their kids are with them.

"Little Johnny refuses to listen to anything but The Wiggles or Barney albums when we're out together. He doesn't let me listen to anything else."

Really? Does little Johnny have a pop gun held to your head? I have a little doughnut addict but I don't allow her to shove munchkins down her gullet every time we drive by a Dunkin Donuts. Personally, I'd rather drive myself and my rug rats off the nearest bridge than listen to Laurie Berkner on constant play. Be a parent, put your foot down. You don't know joy until you've heard a three year old sing, "Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah, I'm gonna start a fight!" from the backseat.

We went through a phase where Chicky wanted nothing more than to listen to Raffi morning, noon and night. It didn't take very long to break her of that habit. Now I allow one children's CD (one that doesn't make my ears bleed) in my car at any time and she gets to listen to it once all the way through. After that, we listen to music that I pick. On longer trips I will bring my iPod and I take requests from everyone in the car. I'll let her listen to any of the many children's songs I've downloaded as long as we can listen to some music every one will equally enjoy.

There's got to be a happy medium. I want my kids to be kids but I also want to teach them there is more to life than "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" before I lose them to their generation's version of the Jonas Brothers. Because then, not only will my ears bleed but I think my head might spontaneously explode too.

Now, lest you think I'm just concerned with being the "cool mom", you can put those thoughts to rest right now. Coolness has nothing to do with it. Music that makes my teeth itch. That has everything to do with it.

I'm working on another kid-friendly playlist that will include music specifically marketed to kids as well as popular music that kids will enjoy and I hope to post it before the holidays. If you want to help out leave your favorite music in the comments and I'll sift through them and add my own to come up with a new list. Those who dare add anything from Barney will be publicly ridiculed. Possibly tarred and feathered too.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree. My kids showed an early fondness for Motown and Stevie Wonder. Really, anything with a beat.

We've got a few Putamayo CD's that we like, and For the Kids is a fun one, but for the most part my 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 year olds listen to many of the same artists I enjoy-- and also good stuff we find together.

MARY G said...

ROFL. So, so true.
My husband makes the grandchild listen to CBC news and drive show. A while back she even asked for it. She's five.

Hera said...

I too grew up listening to music I probably shouldn't have and I tured out semi - normal. My daughter is obsessed with Amy Winehouse, at 3 she was singing, 'They tried to make me go to rehab and I said no, no, no.' hahaha quite a funny sight to see.

Geekgrl64 said...

They Might Be Giants do children's music. They may have some songs that please the whole family.

Dorene said...

James Blunt "You're Beautiful" used to make my daughter stop crying instantly. She now remembers it as her baby song. She also loves "Splish, Splash", "Why do fools fall in love", and Foo Fighters "Best of You"

My sons current favorites? Jason Mraz "I'm Yours", "Better In Time" by Leona Lewis and Kid Rock's "All Summer Long". He will run from any room in the house to the music source when these are playing.

Anonymous said...

I had the album from Grease, too. My mother, a strict Catholic woman, had no idea what the lyrics were because she had never seen the movie. I still laugh at that one.

LizP said...

I had Free to be you and me ... maybe that was the problem :-)

We don't need music in our car because my 3 year old sings the theme songs to Thomas & Friends and Bob the builder interspersed with the alphabet song. Again and again, and again and again ...

Greens and Pinks said...

We own exactly one kid's music CD and it makes me want to drive into a tree when we listen to it in the car. So 99.9% of the music we listen to is of my choosing.

I didn't own Free to Be either ;)

Heather said...

I too make my children listen to my music, I do not think it will hurt them one bit, in fact I think it will make them have an eclectic taste in music. Some of the childrens music that we have that I actually like is form the Muppets, it may just be nostalgic for me but I do think some of it is catchy. I love Rainbow Connection and Can You Picture That. The kids also like some music from Broadway Musicals like Annie, but they also love a lot of the music that I pick they do not comprehend what they are belting out and most of the times they get the lyrics wrong.

Heather said...

I'd never heard of Free to Be until (gasp!) a month or two ago. And I'm 30 mumble mumble.

My kids listen to some kids music and some "real" music. My son likes Pink's song too.

He also enjoys Heartbreak by Rob Thomas (I think it's the drum beat at the beginning) and Hot Girls by INXS. So my parenting is questionable. Oh, and Sexy Back, but it's the clean version too.

We also have 3 of Sandra Boyton's CDs that I enjoy too.

Pgoodness said...

(a) I never realized how dirty those Grease song lyrics were that I was belting out as a kid until a few years ago.
(b) My sons' first favorite songs were Highway to Hell by ACDC and Rockstar by Nickelback, as well as Paradise City by GNR.
(c)For my influence, I've introduced the awesomeness that is children's music by Barenaked Ladies (7,8,9 is the best) as well as everything else on my playlist.
(d) We often listen to the Blues channel while making dinner
(e)Pink's SO WHAT is a big hit around here, too.

I try to give them a nice mix of adult music and kid music and I think we're doing ok. Kid music all the time would put me into a trance!

SciFi Dad said...

In small doses, the Doodlebops aren't that bad. (A full CD of them will kill you, however, so be warned.)

But, bear in mind this comes from a man whose three year old sings "A Girl's Gotta Do What a Girl's Gotta Do" bastardized from Dr. Horrible, so, well, y'know.

Ericka said...

i have a cd of silly songs with larry but it's for me. i love the pirates that don't do anything - it's the ring tone on my cell phone.

i had a mickey mouse record player too, but it was the portable one - you had to shut it for it to play. i loved 'little white duck' and my mom has pictures of my attempts to 'turkey trot.'

i don't think you're doing them any favors by only listening to "children's music" if only because you'll be happy not listening to that swill and if you're happy, they're happy.

Julie Marsh said...

A hilarious CD that's not children's music per se but that appeals to them? The soundtrack to "A Mighty Wind".

But then again, I've got the kid who loves "Hollaback Girl".

Major Bedhead said...

I had Free To Be growing up and loved it.

Boo's two favourite songs are Shipping Up To Boston and Tessie by The Dropkick Murphys. She's also a fan of They Might Be Giants (especially Istanbul, Not Constantinople) and Pink's Rock Star.

The Stiletto Mom said...

First of all, I grew up listening to Lawrence Welk bc it was may parents favorite. Really. I'm not THAT OLD but they were older parents. I survived and went on to be a normal consumer of music...but just barely.

Secondly, have you ever listened to Philadelphia Chickens? It's a Sandra Boyton CD that a bunch of celebrities recorded. It's hilarious, kids love it, and it won't make your ears bleed...not even a little bit. You'll even sing along.

BTW, we never ever, ever never, listened to Barney or any of those other methods of torture in our car. YUCK.

Anonymous said...

My 5 year old loves The Wiggles and The Ramones.

Ali said...

first of all, i'm dying! my best friend came over sat. night and confessed she had never HEARD of free to be you and me. so, i made her watch it. because, of course, i have it! she died.

Bon said...

i had the same record player, and was found lost in a Kmart at the age of five singing Help Me Make It Through the Night.

the only kids' music i'll play in the car is the Irish Rovers.

Anonymous said...

Kenny Loggins has a couple good kids albums. Also Dan Zanes. Good music but for kids.

And the old standby, that my kid still listens to before he goes to sleep Peter Paul & Mommy, kids album from 60s folkies Peter Paul & Mary.

Sarahviz said... 3? Can belt out the words to Britney's "Womanizer". Mother of the Year right here.

Mom101 said...

I grew up with both Grease and Free to Be, so I'm not sure where that has me today.

But my daughter absolutely loves The One I Love by REM - she calls it "Fire."

She also likes the Ting Tings version of happy birthday from Yo Gabba Gabba which I will say, is pretty awesome.

ALI said...

yeah, my kid has put up two fists and sang he was going to "start to fight" from the backseat-it's funny!

Amy Urquhart said...

My mom used to sing a funny little song to me when I was small and it never occurred to me how inappropriate it was until I got much older:

I wear my pink pajamas in the summer when it's hot
I wear my flannel nightie in the winter when it's not
And sometimes in the springtime
And sometimes in the fall
I jump into my little bed with nothing on at all!

That's the time you ought to see me
That's the time you ought to see me
That's the time you ought to see me
When I jump into my little bed with nothing on at all!


Anonymous said...

Had to delurk here

First off I grew up listening to Rod Stewart " Do you think I'm Sexy" over and over again (sigh)

My daughter listens to mostly kids music - Wiggles, Backyardigans, Raffi - but we do have some adult music as well - She knows YMCA by heart, and it's damn funny to hear her sing it

love the blog


Larissa said...

So... does it make me a bad mother because my just-turned-three year old knows all the words to about, oh, 7 different Iron Maiden songs? And *loves* "Into the Fire" by Disturbed and can also sing THAT word for word?

I think the tamest thing he likes (aka obsesses over) at this point is "Feels Like Tonight" by Daughtry. Yep - all the words there, too.

He *does* know a bit of children's songs, as well... though the more babyish ones? He's just BORED with. Give him something with a bit of thrash and a good bassline, and he'll headbang with the best of them, I can't even *begin* to tell you how many people wanted to have their picture taken with him when, at 18 months old, we took him to see Ted Nugent, or the following summer, we took him the Iron Maiden. He's currently asking if I will take him to see Metallica, since he has heard about the upcoming shows in Chicago in January.

Now granted, he's literally only been three for 11 days but yet can pass the first Kindergarten assessment with flying colors (other than knowing his address - we just having gone over THAT much quite yet!), but truly? I think it has a lo to do with his musical genes than the fact that I pretty much let him listen to whatever *I* do - I'm a former opera singer and have played approximately 1378 instruments during the course of my life (okay, maybe a FEW less than that!), my husband is a rock & metal singer, guitar, and bass player, and in the lines of something-removed-cousins? June Cater Cash is a member of my paternal line.

I suppose he may not be quite "up to par" when he starts preschool, but will it take him long to catch on? Hopefully not... as long as his teacher is the owner of a '68 Gibson Les Paul. ;)

kelly said...

the only thing that would make my daughter stop crying when she would break down in the car was Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" and
"Redemption Song." She would go silent the second it went on. She still loves it now @ 19mos. She loves guitar driven songs the most though.

I can't wait to introduce her to everything I love. I can remember Sundays with my mom and sister going through all moms old records and singing along to the Woodstock album. I think that had alot to do with who I am today :)

Patois42 said...

Sadly, my youngest's taste in music is any rock song with bad words in it. "American Idiot." "Who Are You." "Jump."

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I second Tessie by the Dropkicks. Abba is great for dance parties.

But, new stuff we've got: Justin Roberts' latest is great, and we like the new Laurie Berkner.

Lesser known but awesome are the Okee Dokee Brothers' Kids with Beards and Randy Kaplan's Loquat Rooftop. They are on heavy rotation here.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

Okay, I have to admit that I love me some Raffi. His Christmas album rocks.

But, I make my kids listen to everything. From musicals to Prince, to The Offspring to Hank Williams. We've had to be a bit more selective lately. My three year old got upset because she thought Cracker's Eurotrash Girl was "You're a Trash Girl" and she didn't think it was a nice thing to say.