I love the promises people make to themselves about what what life will be like when they are a parent: “When I have kids, I am only going to feed them organic foods.” “I refuse to use the television as a babysitter.” “I vow to not let being a parent impact my relationship with my friends.” And sure enough, a few years later these same people are plopping Junior down to watch the same episode of Spongebob Squarepants for the fourteenth time while serving him some Jimmy Dean Pancakes & Sausage on a Stick: Blueberry (a real product, by the way). This, of course, buys Junior’s parents some time to go on Facebook and attempt to reconnect with friends they have had no contact with since they first learned the art of how to suction a baby’s nose.
As for me, my false promise was that I would not subject either myself or my kids to traditional children’s music. Nine years and four kids later, I have 5,670 songs on my ipod. And I listen to the same thirty-three songs by The Wiggles in heavy rotation until I am pretty sure that my ears are going to start to bleed.
This was not something that I ever planned, and it was surely something that did not happened overnight. No, it was a slow gradual process, which began when I realized that finding music to meet everyones’ needs and tastes is much easier said than done. As a result, I now have very stringent requirements for anything that may eventually wind up in my “Tolerable Kids Music” playlist. The following is just a brief sampling of what it takes to be immediately disqualified from ever making that exclusive and elusive list:
Songs that may cause my kids to one day need antidepressants.
I have learned the hard way that my cherubs do not enjoy any of the 193 songs that make up my “Despondency” playlist. My eldest son reported to me that the folksy songs from the soundtrack to Once were, “giving me feelings that I don’t like.” I wanted to shout at him to “lean into the pain and feel your emotions,” but I thought I should just cut my losses and play something different.
I-Would-Rather-Look-At-How-Much-My-Financial-Portfolio-Lost-Last-Year than listen to these songs:
Surprisingly, Alvin and The Chipmunks are not the main offenders in this category; even when they cover “Funkytown.” This is still more tolerable to me than anything associated with High School Musical. Zac Efron, I swear on my mother’s grave that if I ever run into you and your faux-basketball-playing cohorts, I will personally kick the crap out of each and every one of you. And not because you did anything to me personally; rather, I will beat you to a bloody pulp because you introduced my kids to the genre of musicals. If I ever have to take any of my kids to a matinee of “Cats,” I will hold you responsible.
Songs that mention any of George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV.”
Unfortunately, about a full one-third of my music library falls under this category. That probably wouldn’t happen if I had no taste and enjoyed “easy listening favorites.” Luckily, most of the time, the offending dialogue is really pretty blatant, allowing me to be a “good parent” and not play it for the kids. However...
One day while cleaning the kitchen, the song “URAQT” by M.I.A. started to play from my ipod. In a rare moment for me of pure excitement and joy, I picked up my daughter and danced with her for the duration of the song. Whenever we would hear the song again, my kids would beg me to do the “Silly Dance” with them. It quickly became a wonderful tradition. Around the seventy-fourth time we were enjoying this dance, my wife quietly asked me exactly what the words of the chorus were. Unsure myself, I looked up the lyrics on line. It was at that time that I discovered that the song is rather... well, filthy and profanity-laden. If I was capable of learning what the lyrics were, I was pretty sure that my kids one day would also discover what these lyrics were. And I thought that this was probably not the type of childhood memory that I wanted them to have of their father. There are already plenty of other memories that involve me that I wish I could permanently remove from their tiny little brains, so I did the only thing I could, and retired the “Silly Dance” immediately.
Songs that require me to have to explain how communist organizations work.
The Johnny Cash Children’s Album contains the extremely entertaining song “Why is a Fire Engine Red?” The song uses fun and silly word play, eventually concluding with the line: “The Russians are red. A fire engine is always rushin’ so it’s red too.” “I don’t get it!” my kids would shout when the song ended. “What does he mean by the Russians being red? Explain that to us Dad.” And that was the last time that I ever played that album for them again.
Songs that require me to have to explain how double negatives work.
I’m looking at you, theme from Ghostbusters. “Dad, I’m confused. ‘I ain’t afraid of no ghosts’ actually means that they really are afraid of ghosts, right?” “Yes, kids. You are correct. The writer of that song is indeed afraid of ghosts and is apparently also an idiot.”
Perfectly good songs that I ruined because I’m an idiot.
The soundtrack to Shrek the Third contains the classic song “Cat’s in the Cradle,” by Harry Chapin. The kids would listen to the song and recall the funny scenes from the movie when that song was played. And then one day I had to go and spoil all of their fun by shouting like a drill sergeant: “Do you know what this song is about? Do you? It’s about a father who didn’t spend enough time with his kids. DO YOU SEE HOW LUCKY YOU ARE TO HAVE A FATHER LIKE ME? DO YOU??” Surprisingly, the kids never wanted me to play that song again.
Any item in the wildly bizarre Kidz Bop catalogue.
What is better than a CD compiling all of the most popular radio hits from the past year? If all of the songs were sung by eight year olds! That's the concept behind this apparently popular product line. Not only are these songs painful to listen to, but they are at times downright creepy. That's because the producers didn’t apparently think about the fact that lyrics that were intended to be sung by adults would now be sung by third graders. For example, one song contains the line: “I can have another you in a minute. Matter fact, he’ll be here in a minute.” Sung by someone who will not be able to get her driver’s permit for at least another seven years. Isn’t that precious?
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just an abbreviated list of reasons why I have resorted to just listening to The Wiggles as I drive around all day in my eight year old van. Feel free to call me lazy or a conformist. These labels may indeed be applicable. But listening to The Wiggles makes my life easier, even though now I have to explain to the kids on a daily basis why Greg Wiggle is no longer in the group because he has been diagnosed as having “orthostatic intolerance.” Although not an easy task, it is still better than the alternative: watching my five-year-old daughter walk around the house singing: “If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.”