“Is it easy to sleep in the bed that we made? When you don’t look back I guess the feelings start to fade away,” he crooned.
I cringed as I heard Steven Tyler’s lyrics coming out of my son’s young mouth. What was I teaching my son? Did he understand what kind of bed Tyler was alluding to? Maybe not. Making a bed is a concept he is familiar with, but, unfortunately, is not a practice he’s yet adopted. I decided to play stupid. Maybe he didn’t get it. Fortunately, he changed his tune a couple of minutes later.
“What becomes of the brokenhearted? Who had love that’s now departed?”
“Who did he shoot down?” he asked of me.
“Who did who shoot down?”
“In “Bang Bang.” Who got shot down?”
Damn it, Nancy Sinatra, I whispered as I got caught in the crossfire. I calmed myself down with a breath while I came up with an answer.
“Buddy, do you think that I am happy?” I asked of him.
“Yes,” he answered.
“Yes. I am very happy with your dad. I love staying at home with you. But I like listening to sad songs a lot.”
“Because I like hearing the feelings in peoples’ voices when they sing about sad things.”
That seemed acceptable to him, but it made me wonder. Were my song choices going to shape my son’s emotional development in a negative way? I had no answer to that, and wondered who might. I then thought of someone who is an absolute subject matter expert on songs and children.
I emailed Steve Denyes, half of the duo that is the Hullaballo band, a children’s folk music group based out of San Diego, California to get his take on things (I’d seen the lively group perform a the public library a couple of times).
I think it's a great question. I think there's a place for all types of music in a child's life. One of the advantages of listening to music that is made specifically for kids is that it is designed from the start to be age-appropriate. There won't be any of the complex emotional themes that you mention about love and the sadness that can come with it.
Having said that, I think it's one of the drawbacks of the genre too. As family music entertainers, we tend to keep things happy and emotionally simple. But, every adult knows that real life is anything but happy and simple all the time. So, the songs that you mention can be good jumping-off points for talking with your child about these complex issues.
I would say, trust yourself as a parent. You'll see it and feel it if the music is having a negative effect. My opinion is that, at it's all about finding a balance. Maybe a few light, happy songs mixed in with the emotionally complex stuff. . . I hope this helps!
I breathed a sigh of relief as I read his words. Maybe I wasn’t causing my son irreparable harm. I then thought of the music my mother played back when I was a kid. Elvis Presley hadn’t scarred me at all. Maybe her Puerto Rican trio music did, though (but only because she played the old songs so loudly, and every Sunday for hours at a time). I remember asking her why she liked the depressing songs. She said that they made her happy. I didn’t get it then, but I do now.
“I don’t want love to hurt,” said the boy.
“Why do you think love hurts?”
“Because of that song - “Love Hurts.”
Damn it, Nazareth, I said as I assigned blame (although the fault was my own, as I played the tune a lot). Time for some explaining.
“You know what? Sometimes love hurts - but only when it ends. It hurts in your heart. Sometimes it hurts for weeks, months, or even a year or two. But it gets better with time.”
“Compatability,” he stated.
“Yes!” I exclaimed, seizing on the vocabulary word he’d learned just a few weeks back. “You have to be compatible with someone in order to be happy.”
I didn’t say that he would have to try a few people out at first. I didn’t explain that he might get hurt a few times, too. He can wait to learn those lessons.
But to prepare him for heartbreak, maybe I will lend him a tool out of my own arsenal of weapons - the awesome Steven Tyler.
“It’s amazing. With the blink of an eye you finally see the light. It’s amazing, when the moment arrives that you know you’ll be alright.”
It is amazing - the power that song has to transport us to places we want to be - or don’t want to be. I will continue my son’s emotional education through music, but I’ll be sure to throw some happy tunes in there too, though.