Monday, January 23, 2006

They're always listening

Children are always listening even when you are sure they are not.

Yesterday I started crooning along when a song I've always liked came on the radio while I driving my children in our van.
Peace yelled loudly up to me from the back(this vehicle is old and very noisy, plus I tend to belt out songs like some sort of country star, but only in the confines of my home or my van for humanity's sake), "Mom, this is the song I think of everytime I'm doing the breast stroke. It gets stuck in my head and slows me down. I can't go faster than this beat."

Surprised I questioned, "This song? How is that you know 'Black Coffee in Bed' by Squeeze? Please don't tell me it's on your ipod."

"It's not, but mom you like this song. You sing like that everytime it's on the radio."

When Peace was two years old, ten years ago, I stopped listening to my Led Zepplin and other CD's when I noticed he was picking up lyrics like "where is that confounded bridge?" and other less innocuous, more serious words- not cute, nor pretty, nor funny coming out of the mouth of a small child. This wasn't easy for me to do, because I'd made such close friends of Peter Gabriel, The Cure, and Ricki Lee Jones and other fine artist's music. Instead, I began to play classical music and songs with positive lyrics I didn't mind my little guy repeating. I turned off the television, and started reading books. There is too much on TV to steal a child's innocence.

Fast forward ten years. When I moved to two years ago, I searched for new radio stations as my old ones were out of reach, and I came across one with all my old music pals, and new ones to boot. I wasn't thinking about my resolve made a decade ago when I first started playing this station with my children in the van. I have actually started asking my children to listen to certain songs just to take in their reaction. We howled together a week ago repeating the first verse lyrics of "Jeremiah was a bullfrog." What? How can a frog be a friend? Frogs drink wine?

My children aren't babies learning to talk any longer, but I don't feel like I can just break out any old CD's and jam. I still turn the station when I become uncomfortable with the direction of words. Recently Buck stood horrified with his mouth gaping open when he and I watched a ten year old girl sing and dance to a rather nasty hip hop song- something about booty calls. I know she didn't have any earthly idea what she was singing about, much like I didn't at ten spouting "Afternoon Delight". Remember, "Rubbing sticking and stones together make the sparks ignite, and the thought of loving you is gettin' so excitin'. Sky rockets in flight, afternoon delight"? I also memorized the "Tommy" album by The Who in the fourth grade. The lyrics about child molestation and a sexual healer went right over my head, then. I found myself blushing and turning my head away with Buck and not watching that young girl dance.

You may not believe this, but my children still have not been exposed to much. I know it has all to do with homeschooling and not really knowing other children anymore who rock out. Three years ago in my city old neighborhood, I had a conversation with a dad down the street who bought an Eminem CD for his twelve year old. "Brian, have you listened to that? I have watched three videos and I can't tell you much other than Em talks about beating his pregnant girlfriend to a bloody pulp and killing his mother. The third song I liked, because it was rap to the song 'Sing for the years'. Your boy is so sweet. Why would he want to listen to the two insulting and violent songs toward women?"
Brian replied, "I don't want to listen to it. I make him wear his headphones." He didn't exactly answer my question.

My son is twelve and not asking for any albums, but we fill his ipod for him. He's into Switchfoot, and they are an excellent band. But the day is coming when I won't like his choices of music or other things. Did I already tell you about the young man of twelve on Peace's basketball team who actually sits still willingly in the Beauty Parlor to get highlights on his carefully sculpted hair, carries a cell phone, and wears his basketball uniform shorts below his waist with shirt tucked in to hide his, well, crack? And this fancy young guy was not one of the boys talking smack on the sidelines at practice. From all I can tell, he's a good kid.

The young men and little girls my children hang with aren't into the hip music scene, yet. I suppose, in a way, when they listen to the radio with me, they are entering that scene a bit with me. I've introduced them to the Rolling Stones, but so far they don't like them- which I don't get. What is not to like? The Beatles fly sometimes- Tator loves to play "Blackbird" on his guitar. They've heard my Peter Gabriel Live CD till one son finally asked, "What do you like about this so much?"

I square my shoulders and proudly reply, "Son, it's poetry!" Same goes for U2.

I know I'm closer to the edge of the chasm of something large with my twelve year old, and music will play a defining role sooner or later. Peace is still very much innocent boy though he's got the tiniest hint of acne (oh, please God, have mercy on him). Manhood looms like a shadowy featureless figure on the not so distant dawning horizon; I gasp when I look his way.


Running2Ks said...

What a breathtaking post you have here.

I try hard not to play music that has blatant cursing, but I am sure my kids have heard me sing all kinds of stuff.

Time will tell.

truevyne said...

Time. I have only 6 more years till college for one of mine. Gulp!

SmileDragon said...

In my personal experiences I can see a difference between parents that let their children do and see and listen to whatever they want. Two friends for example, one has a 3 yr old little boy, and one has a 2 yr old little boy. The 2 yr old's mother doesn't allow him to do certain things. He is a very well behaved little boy! The 3 yr old's mother allows him to "hang out" with his older brother, 12, who listens to Eminem and other rappers. This child is out of control. Disrespectful, rude, doesn't listen, gets into trouble at school.

The sad thing is, when I grew up I was allowed to watch and do whatever I wanted, pretty much. But, I think 20 years ago it was so different.

truevyne said...

Dear Smiles,
You make a great point with your stories. Though I know you'd agree, it's not music that makes a child rude- it's parents who think discipline is saying "No" and "Stop" and nothing more. Training a child is much harder work than that!

SmileDragon said...

I do agree, but now days it seems like those parents that just say "no" and "stop that" are the ones that also allow their children to listen to these things, and watch these movies that are entirely too "grown up" for them. The two situations seem to go hand in hand, in most cases.