Kiddie Music? They Prefer Bowie.

guitarThere is no such thing as “kiddie music” in our house. There is only one music, and it’s called MUSIC.

Twice, I took my kids to those free kiddie music “concerts”, where musicians perform kid songs and the kids dance up front. All three cried. Both times.

I guess they prefer David Bowie. Lou Reed. Rolling Stones. Black Keys. Neil Young. Black Sabbath. Led Zeppelin. Loudly. With dance parties and miniature guitars.

The normally extroverted Twin B clung to me with shaky arms as he watched the other kids sing along to “Wheels on the Bus.” My oldest, who has his own toy guitar, could barely stand to look at the guitarist singing about cats. He had a look of disdain on his face, before sobbing that he wanted to go home.

There is no such thing as “kid music” in our house.

Sure, I sing the kid classics to them myself every day, but there is no way in heck you will hear it coming out of my speakers. Momma can sing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” but the subwoofer can’t. Won’t.

Montessori schools maintain that you should always teach the children with real objects, like real tools and dishes, only smaller. There should be no baby-fying of everything. Adults in the Montessori world are expected to use proper terminology as well. Objects and vocabulary should not be dumbed down for children.

I take the Montessori thinking and apply it to our music as well: I am not dumbing down music for them. They get classical (from my husband) and rock (from both of us), because that is what we enjoy. (Oh, and plenty of church hymns on Sundays to round us all out. We love Jesus *and* we love rock n’ roll.) There is not a separate world for them. I was raised in this way, only much much louder. My dad didn’t turn it down for my bedtime, and I loved going to sleep with 110 decibel Led Zeppelin.

If you and your kids enjoy kid songs, then more power to ya. All I’m saying is, if you don’t like to hear kid music in the car, then don’t play it. They’ll be fine. Although they might not like free kid concerts.

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My favorite rock n’ roll from two-year-old twins:

“Hot tramp, I wuv you so!”

“Another one bites the bust!”

And, the best ever is their version of “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways:

“I’m your ch- ch-ch- ch- DAIRY FARM!”

110 Decibel Lullabies: Memories of a Loud Childhood

My dad and my baby brother, circa 1989, with Jimi between them.

My dad and my baby brother, circa 1989, with Jimi between them.

This cartoon was taped into my baby book in 1979.

My mom taped this cartoon into my baby book in 1979.

My lullabies were 110 decibel Led Zeppelin songs. My dad didn’t turn it down for bedtime. I sang along to lyrics that were naughtier than I knew. (But I also changed the lyrics to fit my childhood brain.) I heard my name in “Good Times Bad Times”. I swear, from a very young age, I heard my mom and/or Robert Plant screaming my name in that one. By the age of seven or eight, I knew the difference between 1970s Rolling Stones and 1980s Rolling Stones. I could tell the difference between the Beatles and George Harrison’s solo work. I had seen Roy Orbison perform.  I knew what a Marshall half-stack was. I could tell the difference between a Les Paul and a Strat.  I inherited none of my parents’ musical talents, but I certainly have a brain full of classics and warm/odd memories.

Everyone has memories attached to music and songs. But nobody, of course, has memories like mine. Hearing “Harvest Moon” makes me feel like it’s really late and I am lying in bed and my dad has put the guitar away for the night. He’s just sitting on the couch with my mom while the vinyl spins. Hearing “Cinnamon Girl” makes me feel like it’s a Saturday afternoon band practice and I am watching the band from our basement steps. The music is so loud that my heart is vibrating, just like at a concert. Sometimes the toaster vibrated across the kitchen counter, and one time it walked right off the counter.

Sometimes band practice spilled over into Sunday morning, and my mom and I may have stepped over a sleeping band member a time or two on our way to church. (Interesting tidbit: my mom played the piano at church. Life was a beautiful dichotomy.)

music lover baby

Okayest Mom, circa 1980, loving record albums already…

My childhood was so loud. My mom and I couldn’t answer the kitchen phone, because we couldn’t hear a thing anyone said anyway. We watched a lot of TV shows on mute, because there was no point in having sound. Each TV show had a classic rock soundtrack. We didn’t mind at all – it was just the way it was. When we gave up answering the phone or watching muted TV, we would just sit in the music room and watch my dad practice. My mom and I snuggled on a chair together while he played. I remember sucking my thumb (which I stopped doing on my fourth birthday) while cuddling my mom before bed. My dad was playing guitar and the enormous sound was everywhere, in my whole body. That was relaxing to me. That was how I got sleepy for bed.

My parents never treated music as “background” to anything. Music was something that was enjoyed first-person in our house. It deserved to be the focus of our attention. It deserved to be loud. It deserved to be the featured guest. Besides, playing it quietly makes you miss some of the good stuff. Have you ever heard the beginning of “Time” by Pink Floyd really really loudly? Well, I have. Whenever my dad tested his speaker systems, he put that clock-ticking intro on to calibrate something, I think. The booming bass would shake my little skinny kid body, and I loved it.

My handmade sound system and small record collection, protected from my “quadruplets”.

My dad built speaker systems from scratch. He was a carpenter by trade, and carried his skills over into his love for music. He never had any musical training, as far as I know, but he has audiophile ears and a craftsman’s hands that can build speaker systems to blow-dry your hair – and still make you hear ticking clocks like never before. He designed his music room to have optimal acoustics, and then built it. As an adult in my own home, I have custom-built speakers and a subwoofer, built as presents by my own dad. They are definitely gated off from my “quadruplets”.

The sound system shows off my vinyl record collection quite nicely, but it also shows off my iPod quite nicely. I don’t think my dad approves of me sending compressed digital files through his babies. Sorry, Dad. My dad has a record collection that gives new meaning to the word “collection.” He likes to say that his house couldn’t burn down – it could only melt down. He also told me he pities me when he dies and I inherit thousands of pounds of vinyl. Record albums are precious to audiophiles because they each sound different, depending on the weight and pressing and other things that my kid brain can’t remember. A person like my dad is going to need seven different pressings of “Sticky Fingers” because each pressing will sound unique. Much of that richness and variation is lost in our digital age. (By the way, Neil Young has been trying to solve this problem for years. He has been developing a superior digital music format to replace what we currently use.)

My husband loves my record collection and our homemade sound system. Of course, my record collection is itty-bitty, compared to my father’s. It’s just a sampling, really. I gathered it over many flea-market and thrift-store scavenges with my dad, when I was in high school in the 90s. I take great pride in my little collection. I have one problem: I don’t play it. My husband realized early on in our marriage that I had this strange habit of waiting for him to select the music. It’s a very odd habit that I seemed to have formed from being the offspring of a musician. Apparently, I wait for a man to DJ my life. Not proud of that, but, there it is.

I love vinyl. I’m no musician, but I can hear at least some of the sound quality, and I love it. However, I have no idea how to make music be the featured guest in my house of four children, ages four and under. They are always the featured guests. There is no sitting still to listen to the subtleties of music, and I miss that. However, we do have “dance party” several times a week, where we blast some compressed digital files through the homemade subwoofer (again, my apologies to Dad and Neil Young), and the kids dance with me until we fall down. They especially seem to like Black Keys and Black Sabbath right now.

My kids may not have as many musical memories as I do. They may not know the difference between a Les Paul and a Strat. They may not have 110 decibel Zeppelin lullabies. But, they do know how to headbang as soon as they can stand. They do know how to treat a guitar with respect as soon as they can walk. They do stop whatever they are doing when their father breaks out the acoustic. They probably won’t know what a CD is, but they already know what a vinyl records does. Let’s just hope they can hear the difference!

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(Just for the “record”, all memories have been filtered through my kid brain and I am solely responsible for my errors. I am not a musician, and I’m sure my dad will have to correct me on a few things.)

Kids First? Nah.

us 2

us 1(Sorry, kids, you’re not in these pictures. And look how happy we are!)

Here’s the thing: I don’t put my kids first. I’m serious. When I hear my friends talk about taking their kids to Disney World, I think, “I would never take my kids to Disney World! I’m going to the beach and the kids can come along if they want.” When I hear someone talk about being sick of listening to Wiggles songs in the car, I think, “What is wrong with you?” My kids are growing up on a steady aural diet of Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, and the Stones. (Okay, maybe a little 80s trash thrown in too. Sorry, Dad.) They should all probably be growing up on Mozart, but, oh well, we can’t win ‘em all.

I am Mean Mommy.

Maybe I’m Mean Mommy because it’s what’s good for the kids. For example, I have no trouble sending my kid to bed hungry when he doesn’t like lentils. (Mr. Okayest is bound to swoop in and take the credit for that one.) I am proud to say that my 3-year-old’s favorite foods do include salmon, plain yogurt, and blueberries.

Maybe I’m Mean Mommy because that’s how I was raised. My parents were a team, a unit, and I knew I couldn’t play either one of them against the other. They put each other first, and we kids knew that we came second. You might think that would make a kid feel insecure, but it made me feel completely secure. I knew where I stood. I stood under them – under their safe canopy of intertwined arms.

Maybe I’m Mean Mommy because it’s what’s good for my marriage. I am not going to win any friends with this one, but I do try to put my husband first. I promised him, during our eight childless years, that we are what is most important, whether children come to us or not. After fifteen rounds of infertility treatments, one miscarriage, one adoption, and two IVF twins, my husband is still my favorite person in the whole world. It goes both ways, too. Have you ever heard that saying, “The best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother”? I believe that works in our household.

Or, let’s face it, maybe I’m Mean Mommy because I just really like the beach and Zeppelin.

us 3(Sorry kids, you’re not in that picture either. Look at that empty carseat behind us!)