I have a BA in music with distinction in Music Cognition. I’ve been playing violin since third grade and viola since high school. I’m employed at a conservatory, play with Festival City Symphony, and founded my own string quartet that was awarded ‘best in weddings’ for our region by the magazine The Knot two years in a row. I am not bragging because I know how much practice I sorely need to become the musician I aspire to be, and in the music world pecking order I rank very very very low. Yeah, now think even lower. No, I mention all of this just to stack some weight on my side in order to salvage a bit of my ego when I say–with all seriousness–that the greatest musical influence on my children has been my husband. Ian. The guy with the engineering and economic geography degrees. It’s ridiculous.
Not that you have to have degrees in music to have your opinions or preferences on it be meaningful. That’s insane. Musicians strive to make music that is appreciated by a world primarily populated by non-musicians. Without an audience the final step of what we are trying to do is obliterated. I spend a lot of time telling non-musicians that their opinions count and not to be intimidated by snobs.
What I am trying to say, is that music is such an important component of my life that I made the (apparently crazy) assumption that when I had children, I would be the one to introduce them to the wonders of it. I would have an impact on their preferences and could lead them down a musical path that I was familiar with. Ha.
Turns out I can’t compete with my husband. Ian could have been a jingle writer. He comes up with catchy/annoying little tunes that stick in your head he and used them for reminding the kids to do things. He made up one for telling the kids to brush their teeth, and one for washing hands, and one for eating corn…. He used to organize little dance-a-thons before bedtime to wear the kids out so they would sleep better, and he would drag out his Art of Noise records and play them songs by the Cranberries on his computer. They knew all sorts of music he liked by heart. During his stinits as stay-at-home dad the kids were introduced to all sorts of songs I didn’t even know. It was silly to let it bug me, but there where days it did. You can’t always control what rubs you the wrong way, even when you know better.
I’ve been thinking about this more than usual lately while we prepare for my husband to return home. I will admit I have taken advantage of his absence to commandeer the CD and record players. I can’t be accused of forcing too much of the stuff I like on my kids, especially since in the car I try to let them pick the music, and more often than not we find a middle ground between what they will enjoy and what I don’t mind listening to again and again and again. We listen to a lot of They Might Be Giants, particularly ‘No’ and ‘Here Comes Science,’ but they can also sing along to quite a few Barenaked Ladies tunes now. My kids know a lot more music from the 1980’s than is probably normal, but that’s because they like to run the record player themselves and that was the last time I bought any records. (When Aden has friends over the ‘Ghostbusters’ soundtrack often ends up on the turntable.)
It’s been so long since Ian was a part of any routine here that all the little tunes he sang have faded from the kids’ memories. Aden might remember a few of them if she heard them, but I don’t think Mona or Quinn would. (It’s amazing what kids forget. Mona used to have all of Mary Poppins memorized–every bit of dialogue, every song, every gesture–and when we ran across it in the video store recently it was completely new to her just a few years later.) It will be good to have all the little songs back, and probably new annoying ones to get stuck in our heads when Ian is a real live present member of our family again and not just some kind of ghost who calls us on a satellite phone from time to time.
Between choir and TV, school and their friends, I don’t kid myself that I will have much influence on my kids’ musical lives in the grand scheme of things, but I’m trying to decide if there are a few more tunes I can worm into their little heads before their dad comes home and his influence becomes dominant in that area again. I may be able to play along with them as they practice Bach and occasionally sneak some old Paul Simon tune onto the CD player on the ride to school, but I know where their true source of musical inspiration usually lies. I can’t fight the tooth brushing song. And at this point, I don’t even want to try.