Is it wrong that my daughter LOVES Barenaked Ladies and can recognize the lead vocalist within seconds when she hears a new (to her) Barenaked Ladies song? She routinely tell me what she'd do if she had a million dollars (she'd buy me a monkey, cuz haven't I always wanted a monkey?) I can justify playing They Might be Giants for her by telling myself that they do a lot of the alphabet songs on Playhouse Disney. But that's not what I'm playing for her. Really, isn't Particle Man just so much more fun than, say, the Captain Feathersword song? I have nothing against the Wiggles, and can more than tolerate them occasionally at home, but when I'm driving, I prefer music that won't make me want to drive my van off a bridge and into the Hudson River. I take gleeful delight in watching my children rock out to songs that sing of prosthetic foreheads and not of happy families and rainbows. Isn't that why I'm sending Ruthie to preschool? To learn those sweet children's songs about butterflies and tea parties? And then she can teach them to her little sister, and I'm off the hook again. Her sister will already know the cool songs, from the car.
Seriously, my parents always played normal music in the car when we were growing up (I hesitate to say "adult music" because that makes it sound as if we listened to audio porn). As a result, I know most of the words to most of ABBA's songs (that would be maternal influence, and admit it, you're a closet ABBA fan...who isn't?). And I have very fond memories of my brother, sister and me, elementary school aged, sitting in the back of our station wagon, taking turns singing the various parts to "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." This was way before the song was played at wedding receptions, proms, etc. This was when we were a little edgy knowing all the lyrics. We didn't know what half of them meant, but we didn't care. I can remember listening to the Doors, Queen, Springsteen (long before he was famous...classic Springsteen...pre-Born in the USA). I dropped out of car rides with my dad when I was a teenager and he became an avid Grateful Dead fan, and, in his excess volume induced deafness, would play the Dead at concert levels in his tiny Jeep Wrangler and blow smoke around the car for 6 plus hours while we drove to our vacation house in Maine. Those were not my favorite times. And while I generally can't stand the nasally whine of Bob Dylan's voice, I did learn to appreciate the nearly unmatchable depth and poetry of his lyrics. (Should I leave out the part where my Dad said "This reminds me of your mother" every time he played "Idiot Wind")
But what I really want is for my children to have a good appreciation for music and lyrics of varying types. When Ruthie requests a girl song, she is as likely to get Christina Aguilera singing Lady Marmalade as she is to get Joan Baez or Melissa Etheridge or Joni Mitchell. Helen isn't vocalizing her music preferences just yet, but I'm sure she will soon. And with enough exposure to They Might Be Giants, maybe they'll know that Istanbul used to be Constantinople. Can't learn that from Barney, now can you?