While I’m doling out all of this invaluable parenting advice, I thought I should mention that everything I’ve said about movies applies quintuply to music, and especially to music listened to in the car.
More simply put: There is absolutely no reason to subject yourself to so much as a single note of “children’s music.” If you play real music, the little darlings will embrace it as their own.
Possibly this advice has arrived too late for you, and you’re already up to your ears in Fred Penner and Laurie Berkner. Do not despair, for you have a mighty ally on your side who can help you wean your kids away from the dark side.
I’m referring to Randy Newman: Every child in North America today is a Randy Newman fan by default thanks to the good people at Pixar. I discovered this a while ago when what I regard as his greatest song, Baltimore, came up on my iPod while I was driving with my beloved sprat. “Hey!” she said excitedly. “That’s the guy from Toy Story 2!”
I have no idea why she specified 2 and not the original. One never really knows what’s going on in their daffy little minds. The point is that if you need to dig yourself out of this particular hole, you just need to get some Randy Newman in the car.
Granted, it pays to be careful about lyrical content. I won’t be playing Newman’s second greatest song, “Rednecks,” in her presence any time soon, no sir. And then there was that unfortunate period about four years back when I was still depending on a dashboard cassette player and a limited supply of tapes. She got very attached to the Ben Folds song Bastard. Every car trip began with an excited chant of “Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!” from the back seat until I played the song. Of course, a little tiny kid swearing is inherently adorable and hilarious in private, but then came the day when she and I were shopping at Trader Joe’s and the song came on over the PA. Oh yeah, we turned a few heads.
Again, I want to reinforce the point that none of this has doodly squat to do with the Alternadad delusion. All kids love the Ramones if given half a chance, and I’ve yet to meet a baby who didn’t instinctively adore Kraftwerk. But exploiting these facts for your own benefit has nothing to do with inoculating your progeny with “coolness.” When coolness does eventually enter the equation, you’re going to be sorry as hell it did because it will mean your kid is listening to some generationally divisive music expertly designed to drive you out of your mind. Kraftwerk and the Ramones will be every bit as cool to your adolescent as Gordon Lightfoot, Trini Lopez, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was to you at the same age. Ars brevis, vita longa.
Which is why you should treat yourself now to traveling in a car unified, pacified, and diverted by a hegemonic Hit Parade shaped and determined as far as possible by your own tastes. Because “The Wheels on the Bus” is a really shitty song.