Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Musical Kids that Have Taught Me to Let Go

My kids like music. A lot. I suppose that isn't a big surprise. I like music. A lot. I always have. Sometimes my children's choice of music requires me to put on my best unschooling mom face and soldier on. I do not like Miley Cyrus. I do not like many of the Disney artists that my oldest daughter listens to. Not just because I don't care for their music, which I don't, but because I generally don't like the way they portray themselves to kids. I don't like that often they sexualize children. I don't like that they are often rude, mean, and demeaning in their programs. I don't like the culture of purchasing and consumption that they seem to promote to my kids. That said, my kids listen to them. And they watch their shows. They know how I feel about them. We talk about it often, especially if I hear some of the rudeness come out of my own children's mouths. We discuss that we are a peaceful household, and that an attitude like that is not promoting a peaceful place. That said, they watch it. They listen to it. They google it. For awhile, I think one could say that Zhara was obsessed with it. I generally only offer my opinion when asked for it.

But, and this is a big but, I have waited. I trusted, and I waited. My children are smart cookies. If they ask about how I feel about someone or their music, I share my opinion, but I don't push it. If they want to talk about or purchase products that these stars are promoting, then we discuss that. Why do they want to buy it? Does the child think it will actually make them like this star? Is it better because it has their face and picture on it? But if they persist, and we can afford it, we get it. There have been times that my children have been dissappointed because the product didn't do what they were promised it would do, but they learned it on their own, not because I told them it wouldn't work.

My musical children have taught me to let go of a lot. I want my children to be free thinkers, to enjoy music, and art, and books, and media of all kinds. I want them to speak their mind and form their own opinions. And the hardest part of all of this, is that often, in fact, very often, their opinions differ wildly from my own. I think this is hard for many parents. It really crosses all borders -- ideological, cultural, religious. If we value having our children be free-thinkers, though, we have to learn to let go. They will get there. Where they get may not be our ideal scenario for them, but if they got there themselves, then it is no doubt exactly where they should be. Being a free-thinker, and a well-rounded child, does not mean being dictated to, it means finding one's own path.

So it was on that note, that I waited. For a couple of years I have waited. I have listened to Miley Cyrus and her croonies drone from the radio and my computer. I have listened to Radio Disney, and heard my daughter talk at length about shows that I find annoying at best, but I waited, and I listened and I asked questions. And during that time, my oldest daughter because amazingly skilled at googling, and using Youtube. She learned how to research on Wikipedia and to spell better to be able to use the computer. Much of what she was googling and Youtubing was the music that I found difficult to even listen to, but she was growing.

One day, we found ourselves in the grocery store, and my younger son asked for some item because it had somebody's picture on it. Before I could even reach for it, Zhara pipes up with, "you know, it doesn't actually do what it did on the TV. They just say that so you'll buy it." "Oh," says Angus, "nevermind." And we passed on, and I stared in partial bewilderment that my children had gotten this on their own. I hadn't preached it. I hadn't said no. I had just waited. Occasionally, as unschooling parents we get a very tangible reminder that yes, unschooling most certainly works, but there is a lot of patience required for those ah-ha moments, and often a lot of uncertainty in the middle. I am not immune to wanting to control my children's actions. It is ingrained in us in our society, there is no way we could not be influenced by it, but unschooling is about letting that go, and trusting our children, about being their guide and co-pilot, not the one in control.

So having read this far, you will understand my excitement when a few nights ago as a family we were watching Glee's Rocky Horror Picture Show special. I explained the musical and movie to Zhara. She is newly-obsessed with zombies and all such things spooky and dark. So this was right up her alley. She danced and danced with wide-eyed wonder. She was enchanted. That night she spent hours downstairs listening to Rocky Horror and Glee's renditions of it on the computer. The next day, I gave her my old well-worn cd of Rocky Horror Picture Show from college. She was delighted and squirreled it happily away in her room. It's a step. A baby step, but a step.

I haven't heard the Disney folk for a couple of days. I have no allusions that they are gone, yet, but I suspect that Zhara is starting to get bored with the formulaic songs and pat endings of their songs and shows. I suspect that she is learning to move outside of her comfort zone music-wise. Maybe part of that comes from the fact that she is getting better at piano, and learning more songs and styles of music there. My children all love to sing and dance. We have a music room filled with instruments and there is rarely a time when someone is not playing something.

I suspect that they will each have a different path to music. Angus, has always seemed more in tune with my musical taste, but regardless, he will have to find his way, and he may have his own path of Justin Bieber or boy bands to get there, who knows. Only time will tell. I am proud to say that, as difficult as it is sometimes, my husband and I are stepping back and letting them find their own path. It is theirs afterall to walk. We will give our opinions when asked, and expose the kids to as many different artists and genres as we are able, but in the end, it is our children's lives to live, and not ours.

We keep them safe, but we don't shelter them from life. I may not like the life that some of these stars promote, but if I shelter my children from them even existing, I fear that not only would I be limiting my own kids' learning, I would be making that unknown thing even more absolutely enticing when it is, ultimately discovered.

Of course, who knows, perhaps sometime in the next few days, the kids may find a few cds on the kitchen table to explore. And if they happen to fall in love with the Beatles, or the Cure, then we're all better off for it, aren't we? :)


  1. Being open to whatever happens is a unique challenge. We bring these preconceived notions to everything - after all, we've been on this planet so much longer than our children, have we not? Don't we know more? Aren't our opinions in some ways *more* valid? Well, no. Not really. I think remembering the path is so important. I'm not certain that most parents do it all the time and I'm sure I do it very imperfectly. But when I take the time to remember that this is their first time on this planet, their first time with all of this information and stuff and also, almost more importantly, that their world is very different than the one that I walked that path in, then there's usually this ah-ha moment where I see their experience for what it is and in some tiny way (as much as I am able), quit judging it. Only then can we have a real conversation, you know?