Children’s music. Ugh. I’m trying to be open minded and accept it as part of my life for Ellie’s sake, but man, I’m having a hard time.
I’m trying to think back to my earliest childhood memories of music to find something that’ll soften my pretentious soul and open it up to the world of songs about bridges falling down and monkeys getting hurt. But I just don’t remember taking a particular liking to any of the classics like John Jacob Jingleblah blah blah, or I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad. The earliest songs I can remember being obsessed with are Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust, The Beatles' Yellow Submarine and anything from the Muppet Christmas Album with John Denver. It’s not that I don’t like music, I love music. I’m just reluctant to play the children’s music because it’s annoying.
When I first found out I was going to be a dad, one of the images I kept focusing on was sitting on the couch listening to music with Ellie. She was maybe 4 or 5 years old in my vision, and she’d sit and listen to me talk about the different music we were listening to. She’d have her favorites and I’d have mine, but for the most part it involved me proselytizing to her about the music I loved so much. “You see, Mozart was like the world’s first rock star ….” I think I latched onto this fantasy because it was my way of connecting with her.
I didn’t waste any time getting started. While Ellie was still in the belly, I started having listening nights with her. I wanted to cover all the basic categories. Classical, jazz, funk, soul, classic rock, current rock, Japanese music and the list goes on. I would make Aya lie down on the couch and then I would set the playlist. Ever since she was born, I’ve pretty much done the same thing, but I find I often forget (or ignore) the fact she is just a toddler.
For the first year, I barely had the TV on when she was up and around, but I always had music going. I usually tried to keep it soothing with some Mozart symphonies or something like that. But she also seemed to react positively to the Beatles, so they became the headliner. It was all Beatles all the time at our house. Well, most of the time.
After a few months, I figured I should maybe play some children’s music for her. My mom had bought us a 3 CD set from the Baby Genius series that had “over 46 songs” on it. I played one track and wanted to bang my head against the wall. It was the worst version of This Old Man ever recorded. How could anybody listen to this!? This was awful! Then I tried the Japanese children’s songs. For some reason, I could stomach those more because I couldn’t understand the lyrics. But after awhile, that CD drove me nuts too. It was back to the Beatles again.
As I started to turn the TV on more, I censored what she watched to all music stuff. Like all the musical performances from the hit TV show Glee or a KISS concert I found on Netflix. What? She liked the costumes and pyrotechnics. But then after awhile I decided to give the kids stuff a try again. We were introduced to The Wiggles, Australia’s greatest export since Crocodile Dundee. Oh man, that was rough. I found that I could listen to it at first, but I couldn’t watch. Those catchy songs about dogs got stuck in my head and it seems OK, but when I see them, I feel awkward. I wonder if this is the job they wanted. Maybe they started as an Australian grunge band, but they never got their big break. So they decided to put on old Star Trek Halloween costumes and entertain children. I know I’m mean, I don’t mean it. Music was my thing and I didn’t want to give it up for these guys. I still had my vision.
I started to take pride in Ellie’s love of music. She’ll dance to the Beatles, loves to watch a concert DVD with U2, Bruce Springsteen, Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy. She lights up and starts to sing along to that current Gym Class Hereos’ song with Adam Levine. OK, maybe that’s trouble right there. But when I went to pick Ellie up from my mom’s house one day, Ellie was sooo happy dancing along to No More Monkey’s Jumpin’ on the Bed, and twinkling along to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and partly singing along to Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Oh man! I’m denying my kid a carefree childhood with simple songs she not only loves, but learns from!
When we got home, I dusted off those Baby Genius CDs and put on the monkey song. Ellie jumped around the living room having so much fun. My pretentious music loving soul cracked and I couldn’t help but smile. Maybe this stuff isn’t that bad after all. And then I started jumping with her too.