When Girlchild turned about 3 years old, she became cognizant of the music I listen to, especially the music playing in the car. Over time, then, I also have had to become more aware of the lyrics in my favorite songs. To be honest, this has sucked. I am not the best at paying attention to lyrics, unless they are clearly heard and sound at least slightly poetic. I miss a lot of dirty words if they’re sung without emphasis.
She does not.
And some lyrics she just shouldn’t repeat.
But parenting seems to be about constantly maturing, and accepting that your life will never be exactly the same. The selfish pre-kid interests we had are forced to evolve. I get it, and I take the good with the things that suck, and move on.
And blast my own music in the car when I am out and about without child passengers.
But then I realized Girlchild was not only mentally taking notes on the lyrics, she wanted to fully understand them. And so began our mobile analyses.
I forgot and listened to Kanye West in the car one day. We listen to “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’ “, before I realize that yes, crap, it’s pretty explicit. Girlchild doesn’t ask about the words that make me change the CD. She is 3 and says, “Mama, what does he mean he shouldn’t forget where he came from?” and “What does it mean, he needs to get his money right?” Oh boy…so Nerdy Me tries, and fails of course, to explain the upward mobility and stress of new wealth that the up-and-coming African American rapper often experiences. I start over and just try to explain the concept of humility, and that doesn’t work either. I change the CD.
Girlchild, again 3, wants to listen to a Halloween mix I’ve created. The CD progresses to one of my favorites, Will Smith’s “Nightmare on My Street.” She loves Halloween and likes the song as long as I forward through the part where the “scary guy” raps. All context is lost for this poor child who has obviously never seen any of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series. Then I get the question, “Mama, what does he mean when he says he has a nightmare on his street?” and I don’t want to even tell her anything about the movie series.
Fast forward to Girlchild at age 5. She is learning to read, and it is amazing to watch life literally get decoded for her. She wants to read not only books, but every sign we pass on the road and anything with words anywhere on it. She’s addicted to this decoding. No longer can Manchild and I spell out curse words or inappropriate remarks or jokes to each other, for fear that she will ask us what something spells–or worse–ask someone else. Our life has just taken on a level of censorship not yet seen, but the pros clearly outweigh the cons as we watch Girlchild just absorb everything around her. I mean, I joke here, but truly there is nothing more amazing than watching your child get excited about reading.
We also bought a newer car this year. It has a bright center display for nav, music, etc. When I have it set to show us music details, I run a greater risk than just lyrics being heard. I now run the risk that the band Heartless Bastards might be playing on the radio and she will see the band and song display and ask, “Mama! What does b-a-s-t-a-r-d-s spell?” I don’t want to have to explain the supposed illegitimacy of children while on our way to swim lessons. Last week we were listening to Kathleen Edwards’ “Going to Hell” and I had to try to subtly explain the concept of damnation. “What does it mean she’s going to hell in a basket she made?” Sigh. Now add lessons on cliche, guilt, etc. to that of damnation. We’ve never even talked about hell or the devil before, but now it is being discussed. On the way to Target.
I may be starting to understand what parents of teenagers say about car rides being great conversation opportunities….
The other sorta-cool-yet-sorta-annoying thing about my new car is that when I’m too lazy or indecisive to select a CD or plug in my phone for its ipod (where the artist/song are easily chosen), I can just select Bluetooth and the car just randomly shuffles all the music in my phone and plays whatever. I definitely have to be on guard with the music in Bluetooth mode, and be ready for an argument when a questionable song begins playing and I quickly skip to the next song. Girlchild does not like me skipping around songs. She does not want to miss anything.
Recently I was kind of zoned out and Bluetooth was doing its magical technical thing. “Mama, what does….Dust…Mo….what does that say?” I finally realized she was referring to the fact that the song “Des Moines” by Halloween, Alaska had come up and was playing. I kind of laugh and NerdMom takes over, “Oh, that doesn’t say dust. It says Des Moines. It’s a French word…” and then I realize I can’t really tell her Des Moines is a French word without pronouncing it in its native language and setting her up for mockery in later grades. And without telling her what it means in French, which I don’t know. “Well, honey, it’s really just a town in Iowa. It’s technically a French word but we don’t pronounce it like it should be pronounced in French…” “Mama, what is Iowa?” Somehow our conversation goes from geography to proper nouns and all sorts of topics for which I’m not alert enough in morning pre-caffeine mode.
And the next song up? The Shins’ “The Celibate Life.” Oh no, dear God, no I do not want to explain celibacy to a 5 year old. Skip. SKIP! Quickly! Maybe just shut the music off.
And then we pass the clustercuss of mall and junky restaurants and the portion of the road that just depresses the holy crud out of me.
And I hear, “Mama! There’s a place called Hoots! Is that a restaurant?!” She is excited. She likes owls a lot.
I get now why certain governments and majority groups perceive reading as dangerous when the parties they control start to achieve literacy. Reading really is dangerous, Maverick. Sigh.
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