When I was first informed that I was going to be a father, a whole mess of insecurities immediately began to race through my mind:
How much do diapers actually cost? How am I going to pay for college? How am I going to snowboard 100 days next season if I have a kid? Where should we live? The public schools around here aren’t as good as Concord Carlisle High School… but we cant afford private school, can we? What if it’s a girl and she hates me? What if it’s a boy & he turns out just like me? What if he or she doesn’t inherit mom’s red hair & freckles? How am I going to give this kid everything it wants – and needs – yet raise it to be hard working, tough, kind, intelligent, physically gifted and emotionally stable?
So I immediately did what any art school graduate would do, when searching for the answer to one of the most difficult questions that we, as homo sapiens, face: I started trolling social media.
What I found sent chills down my spine
Now, you may think my fear had something to do with the tagged topic: “What’s the Right Age for Your Child to Do X?” I didn’t even blink at that one – what sent me into a tailspin was this: Mom listens to country music. COUNTRY! How am I going to prevent my innocent, unborn child from growing up to be a chaw-chewing-cheap-whiskey-drinking-meth-cooking hillbilly?!?
BUT: when I looked in the answer thread, I found inspiration:
I was 16 when I visited Sapelo Island in Georgia, a place where the US government actually fulfilled their promise at the end of the Civil War: they issued 40 acres and a mule to a small number of freed slaves. The island is still (primarily) owned by the descendants of these families who, though torn from their homes & stolen away from families on the African continent – have been able to trace their lineage back to specific tribes & villages. They traced their heritage not through written records or genetic research – they identified their ancestors through song.
We are, intentionally or not, establishing our own family traditions with every passing day. We keep the television off on weekend mornings (I’ve discovered I don’t need 3 hours of NFL pregame to beat this “Playground Daddy” dude in fantasy football) in favor of Oscar Peterson. It helps relax us both, sets a great tone for the day. It serves as an excellent backdrop for actual conversation. Additionally, not enough can be said for how music heals, and soothes. On a bad day, momma rolls down them windows, cranks the stereo and belts out the music of Miranda Lambert or Mr. Blake Shelton. I may put on earmuffs, and desperately fight the urge to climb out the window of a speeding vehicle – but she feels so much better after, that truly encourage it. I’d posit that this exercise even helps us work on compromising, better equipping us for the challenges of parenting. But I have no evidence to support the opinion – yet.
Now, though ODB famously bumrushed the Grammys to make sure we all knew how much they love the kids – I knew the Wu would be far too tough a sell for my Baby Mama. And though I am not on board with Jay’s “B-Word” policy – the foul language is a bit much for my seed. I’m also not ready to try to justify my love for music that repeatedly and over zealously objectifies women – yet. Chris Rock (Playground Dad certified Fatherhood Authority™) says our responsibility as fathers is solely to keep our babies off the pole – I’d add keeping her name off the lips of many – or ANY – rappers as well.
Some “real” research schooled me to the fact there is no empirical evidence to support a theory that suggests playing classical music for your fetus makes them smarter (one could even argue it was a position fabricated for marketing purposes). Further evidence that it’s probably a CRAZY concept, can be found in the fact former Georgia Governor Zell Miller mandated all pregnant women be given classical music CD’s. Does anyone actually agree with THIS guy?
But whether or not you believe playing music through a pair of headphones, pressed to the baby bump (or, at 31 weeks, the baby “bulge”) will have long term effects on your child’s intelligence, artistic talents or instrumental prowess – music is playing a wonderful role in our pregnancy. And I don’t care what scientific research has determined: my baby girl is developing her musical tastes, same as she’s taught herself to breast stroke better than Missy Franklin. And history tells us that the traditions we establish for our families will span generations.
We sing to our unborn daughter. Music has many wonderful side effects – it relaxes as well as inspires. It can be energizing and intellectually stimulating. But it is also a way to share part of yourself with your child – and the rest of your family, too. My mother & step-father had been together for many years, before they had my baby brother & sister – I was a teen, and I remember my mother playing music she loved but rarely played. I think of my sister whenever I hear Joni Mitchell… Listening to songs from different scenes of the soundtrack to my life – music has an amazing capacity to evoke very specific emotions with just a few notes. The things we love – a sports team, albums, books, a film – really do play huge roles in defining who we are, as well as the groups we associate with. I can’t remember the last time I ended up developing a friendship with someone who watched but did not like “The Wire.” Or Anchorman. The music we listen to – and share with those around us – serves as an expression of self.
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down: Social Studies class did not inspire me to take an interest in politics and government – listening to Marvin Gaye, Public Enemy and The Dead Kennedys did. Hearing BDP & Bob Marley helped me to understand that history is written by the victor, and to truly understand this world you have to look deeper than the surface. The Native Tongues, Black Flag, Fishbone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers showed me that you could bounce to the beat of your own drummer & do your own damn ‘dang. Stevie Wonder & Otis Redding helped me develop empathy, patience and understanding… The beauty of these artists work opened me up to hear the messages contained within the music.
In that spirit, here is a list of ten albums – real albums, not greatest hits collections or compilations – we are currently playing for our still #enwombed daugher:
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key of Life
Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
Adele – 21
Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Sam Cooke – The Wonderful World of Sam Cooke
Sugarland – Enjoy the Ride
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Sade – Soldier of Love
Perhaps once my baby girl arrives… when mom heads to the gym or yoga on Saturday morning, I’ll turn up some De La Soul or Outkast. And when I head out to the mountains at sunrise on a weekday morning – her momma will pump up some Martina McBride. But I believe that the music we’re playing for our daughter now, will enrich her life.
What album will you play for your babies this weekend?