Alicia Keys would have been proud last weekend - or either demanded payment for remixing her song without permission! Early last week, I noticed my 3 year old son singing Ms. Keys' popular song, This Girl is on Fire so intensely that I laughed my butt off. I know that Landen has heard this song before - briefly on that infamous credit card commercial, on other shows, and on the radio. The difference last week was that he had the melody down to a science. So I asked: Landen, where did you hear this song? I had a feeling that he actually heard it in its entirety on the kid jams CD that the older kids often listen to at school - and yes he had indeed heard the kid version of the song...how cute! Fast forward to last Saturday and, as he played "cowboys,” I heard the same song in its remixed form - This Cowboy is on FIRE…hilarious and very creative. But, now I am thinking - he is just not repeating - he is comprehending! Great but now I REALLY have to pay attention to all of the music and media that we consume.
Chicago Tribune’s Heidi Stevens discusses music and other media influences on youth in her most recent Parent ‘Hood column (published in The State 3/19/13). She asks how parents would handle a situation where their preteen’s friends listen to, in her words, “raunchy” music. Now I definitely think that Alicia’s song is not the worst pop song for my child to hear as it is really is about a women’s effort to balance, work, family, and other life stresses. However, inevitably Landen will not be sheltered by a kid’s version of every pop song on earth. So it’s never too early to consider the most effective ways to allow Landen to be independent, creative, and hip while using teachable moments to share our values and encourage him to thinking critically about media and pop culture. The columnist also asks if parents would consider themselves a “prude” if they wanted their child to not listen to any of the so-called raunchy music. The parent responses in her office ranged from Yes. But sometimes that's your role… to No, you are not a prude. You have taste. Joking aside, the full parent responses did place emphasis on using teachable moments and on actually talking with your child and not just screaming at them about how horrible their music is!
I know that as a pre-teen and a teen, I listened to many songs that were totally inappropriate, but my parents and older siblings used opportunities – like preparation for dances, skating rink parties, proms, and senior week – to talk to me about the real life influences and pressures that I would face – NOT to judge. My father would often say that my friends and I needed to take a break from the hip hop music and watch the 60’s soul group special on public television with him– But he never told us to NOT listen to hip hop and popular music – just to pay attention and respect ourselves. My mom also added that if I always keep what she taught me in the back of my mind, eventually my conscience would be guide. Keeping the lessons in mind to this day – I am sure that we can stay somewhat sane on this journey with Landen and help him grow into the young man that he needs to be regardless of the popular culture that surrounds him.
Now that I am paying attention…he has released his newest remix of the song…This MAMA is on FIRE! – seriously, I can’t make this stuff up!!