I’ve ruined my kids. I’m sure that statement could apply to many things when it comes to my parenting, but in this instance, I’m referring to the fact that I’ve ruined my kids’ ability to passively listen to the music that invades their daily lives. That becomes clear to me in various ways on a pretty regular basis.
It’s clear when my daughter texts me and tells me she heard a song on the radio and knew it would bug me because of words that were repeated in the lyric.
It’s clear when my son sends me a link to a song he loves because the lyric is crafted so beautifully and the marriage of music and lyric deeply moves him.
It’s clear when my 14 year old asks me to buy and download songs (yes, that means purchase) by an artist his friends have never heard of, which frustrates him to think not enough people appreciate that artist, so he wants to play the songs for his friends.
Truth be told, those moments when I connect with my kids over a song are some of my favorite parenting moments. Mostly because I’m a song nerd, but also because I feel like they’re learning to appreciate something that has value and that makes me happy.
Sometimes I’m bugged by my own critical listening ear, which often leaves me choosing silence over noise because at times it can feel like work to simply hear a song. But I would never choose the alternative. I wouldn’t want to miss the joy I find in leaning closer to discover a countermelody I’ve not noticed before. I wouldn’t want to miss those moments my jaw drops because someone crafted a lyric with an inner rhyme that leaves me both in awe and jealous.
If I could beg other parents to do one thing, other than challenge them to ask their kids how they treat their substitute teachers, it would be to ask them to raise their kids to be active listeners of music. Don’t let them be lazy listeners. Teach them to pay attention. And when they do pay attention, ask them what they hear. Ask why they listen to the music they do. Ask which songs move them and which songs bug them. Ask about the lyrics, the melody, the beat, and the instrumentation. You don’t even have to be that musically literate to ask these questions. Heck, there’s gotta be a Music Appreciation for Dummies out there somewhere if you need some help. It might be fun to become a little more musically savvy, yes? And besides, we can learn a lot about our kids by becoming familiar with the music they listen to.
Chances are, you and your kids will appreciate very different kinds of music. But you just might land on something you both appreciate. It might take awhile to get there, but give it a shot. And here’s a novel idea: when you find songs that you love, songs that move you or challenge you or inspire you or make you get up and dance, buy them. Put your hard-earned money down and get that music on your device and enjoy it, over and over. Listen to it with your kids. Share something of value that lasts. And you never know, the conversations you have about those songs might lead to some pretty beautiful moments with your kid.