I’ve known parents who blast AC/DC on their way to drop their kids off at day care. And I know parents who are strictly Veggie Tales and Raffi until their children are old enough to complain.
When Zoe was born we definitely leaned toward lullabyes and Sesame Street music and the like. It wasn’t hard because I already listened to Sesame Street music (even as an adult–Jim Henson is one of my heroes) and we were turned on by friends and family to a variety of children’s artists whose work is not at all nauseating and even enjoyable, such as Elizabeth Mitchell and Laurie Berkner. We also resurrected our own childhood favorites, including In Harmony, Free to Be You and Me, and Peter, Paul & Mommy. We also rocked Zoe to sleep on many nights to Sweet Honey in the Rock, Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora or to a classical bedtime mix that Randy created.
After a couple years when we figured it was safe, we loosened up a bit about what we played when Zoe was in the car. Also we missed our grown-up music. Often she would request (by which I mean demand) to listen to kids music. We took turns.
Now that she’s almost five, her tastes have matured. There’s a lot of grown-up music she likes, including Adele, Florence and the Machine, Lady Gaga, the Beatles, Madonna (thanks to the Superbowl halftime show) and the music covered on Glee. I am a certified Gleek and have downloaded many a Glee tune and made a bunch of cds that are often in rotation in the car. And I know Zoe is not the only preschooler who likes Glee. I’ve heard from many friends that their kids sing along to the Glee songs and I’ve seen that disturbing video on YouTube of the cute little Filipino kid in the Warblers outfit singing and dancing to “Teenage Dream.”
What I don’t know is if all these other kids ask as many questions as Zoe does about what the lyrics mean. Recent inquiries have been about: “I Kissed a Girl” (“What does she mean ‘it felt so wrong it felt so right?'”), “Only the Good Die Young,” “Born this Way,” “Never Going Back Again,” and “Without You.” Generally I try to answer very straightforwardly and at face value. “She’s talking about how she kissed a girl and it felt nice but she’s worried that her boyfriend will get mad.” It’s easier with songs that are celebrational and positive: “It’s about how you should always like yourself and be proud of yourself even if people make fun of you or you make mistakes.” “It’s about how she really likes being with someone she loves.”
I really don’t want to get too deep into the concept of romantic love. I did teach her the word passion because she asked about it in the context of an Adele song. I told her it meant to love something or someone very much or feel very strongly about something. She said “like I’m passionate about going to Aunt Susannah and Uncle Aaron’s house tonight!” OK, sure. She does understand love, even in a way way way prepubescent sort of way, so that’s something. And she has strong feelings about a lot of things.
It’s fun that she likes this music. I DVRed the Grammys and fast forwarded through the boring parts to find songs by artists she likes. When something caught her ear she asked me to get up and dance with her. We talked about Katy Perry’s blue hair. Zoe LOVES “Firework” (mostly the Glee version, because I really don’t think Katy Perry can sing) and she was disappointed Katy Perry sang something else on the Grammys. But it’s also tricky, because it is clear now that she is really paying attention, and she isn’t willing to just let things slide. She wants to learn what the words are and what they mean and make sense of it all. For me it’s like being on a parenting game show. Quick, explain this very sophisticated concept in 30 words or less that won’t lead to further questioning!
And she just as often will ask for the Muppets or Susie Tallman lullabyes or Barenaked Ladies’ Snacktime (their cd for kids). And I am so excited when I’m playing a regular BNL cd and she says “aren’t these the people who sing “Food Party?” That’s my girl! I like that we can share more music and have little dance parties together.
At the same time, she’s reading now, which is thrilling for all of us, but similarly opens up new possibilities for questions that I never anticipated. We were driving behind a van the other day with stickers on the back that said JESUS IS COMING. BE PREPARED. Zoe read the sentences and said, “Jesus is coming? What does that mean?” I changed lanes and changed the subject. Not ready for that one yet.