White Knuckle Parenting: The Playlist Shuffle
My son is really starting to discover and love music. Now I just have to make sure he discovers and loves decent music.
I've been buying some terrible music off of iTunes recently, and it is breaking my heart. See, my oldest son, Sam, got an iPod for his birthday and let's just say that his musical tastes don't entirely coincide with my own.
This is particularly devastating considering that ever since he was born, my husband and I have been trying to brainwash him into liking decent music. I mean, I know it was just a couple of weeks ago that I wrote about not wanting to force him to have the same political views as I have, but this is music. This is important.
I mean, sure, when he was younger, we let him listen to kids' music, took him to his very first concert (The Wiggles), and even let him listen to Barney sing "I love you, you love me..." Still, to combat that, we have fed him a steady diet of rock music, jam bands, and otherwise acceptable tunes.
When Sam got his iPod, he was initially happy to let me put songs from my own music library onto it, which I took to be an opportunity to strengthen his interest in some of the bands he already liked and to introduce him to some new ones. In addition to our house standards (Bob Dylan and Phish) I added the Beastie Boys, White Stripes, De La Soul, the Clash, Johnny Cash, and Joan Jett, along with other music that I love but is probably too embarrassing to share publicly.
I followed those up with some positive "you are awesome" songs and, then, with the greatest of reluctance, I added songs that Sam loves even though they are terrible. I paid $1.29 for a Carly Rae Jepson song, for the love of God.
Sadly, there was some fantastic music that I couldn't load onto his music player. I'm not all that concerned with the little all-caps "EXPLICIT" stamped in red next to certain songs in iTunes (Pink's "F**kin' Perfect" made the cut), but even I, a parent who is not all that concerned about cursing in front of my children, had to draw the line at some subject matter ("99 Problems" did not pass muster).
It turns out that a lot of the music I like is really not all that appropriate for children.
(I remember the first time I realized that. It was several years ago and one of my very young sons was wandering around the house singing, "Riding that train...high on cocaine..." That was when it came to me that good music with a rebel element is rebellious for a reason.)
The really sad thing is that we were shortsighted enough to give Sam an iTunes card to go with his iPod, hence giving him the means to purchase his objectionably poppy songs even if I am offended by how bad they are.
Silver lining: Some of those objectionably poppy songs fit nicely into my upbeat running music playlist, allowing me to subsidize his purchases and making me feel that he's getting his money's worth from Party Rock Anthem.
I guess it is time to accept that my son's musical tastes are no longer under my control. My husband and I can play all the quality music we want, but Sam will hear music on the radio and in the company of his friends that will make my skin crawl.
All I can hope is that all my early work playing artists like Leonard Cohen while Sam played on the floor and fighting to keep Kidz Bop CDs out of the house can offset the damage currently being done by Katy Perry and Taio Cruz. I still have hope that given a few more years to mature, he will turn his back on the dark side and come back to the land of light and joy and solidly decent music.
Mostly though, I just know how powerful and soothing music can be. I'm glad that Sam is finding that. It doesn't matter all that much if I like his music as long as it is meaningful to him. I'm happy to be raising a music lover—even if I don't love his music.
Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, is a freelance writer who writes a personal blog at Stimeyland and runs an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Stimeyland.