To say I have a great relationship with both of my kids is an understatement. It also sounds very pretentious. But it is true. I have a daughter turning 21 and a 14 year-old son and they are polar opposites, which is intriguing to me as I see so much of myself in both of them at different times. I am extremely lucky to say I have a great relationship with my children, especially at their ages. And I owe it all to music.
That’s right, I said music; not parenting self-help books or mommy groups or even wine and therapy. Of course, wine sure helped a lot of the times. I actually owe my intimate, open and respectful relationship with my two offspring to the most powerful entity out there — music. I say this as I blast Tyler the Creator’s “Deathcamp” from my headphones; a song I stumbled upon thanks in part to my son, who is a huge fan of that weird little kid in flannel pajama pants that raps in a deep voice about the weirdest shit. As I type this, I go over Facebook messages from my daughter, who’s living in Europe at the moment, as she states I need to listen to Sampha, who, together with Kanye, is on Drake’s new album, even though she knows I don’t really like Drake….no joke, these are the random things we talk about DAILY as she lives thousands of kilometers and a 9 hour difference away!
Now, both their father and I are pretty liberal when it comes to music. We like all genres (except new Country, don’t get me started on that), and we have been to major rap concerts, metal concerts, and have taken our young son to music festivals; to say we are music junkies in our house is an understatement. At any given time, we have music pumping from the ear buds or the television and we watch music videos and live footage on YouTube regularly. Family road trips usually consist of arguments about whose playlist will be blasted in the car first. The range from Guns N Roses to J.Cole to Fleetwood Mac is pretty severe at times to say the least.
I grew up in a house that was centered around music. My mom would nod off to her Liberace or Animals or Rolling Stones with cigarette in one hand, beer in the other. My very large extended family is also connected to music in a big way, and our reunions and weekend get-togethers always include guitars and singing around the fire. (Insert Canadian Cliché here). It was no surprise when my kids came along that I would pass that love of all kinds of music on to them…of course, I subjected them to the music I liked when they were young, because I am the mom and I can. Thankfully, they liked it. But soon, it was obvious they had their own tastes in music and I decided to do the very least parental thing to do– I asked them about their musical tastes. And I listened. Turns out, even with new, evolving musical preferences, my kids still appreciated all I had taught them and they still found my music relevant and influential. An interesting thing also happened, when I asked them about their music. They got excited talking to me! We would sit and listen and talk about Eminem and D12 and Hypercrush and The Weeknd (way before he was famous) and with these conversations, we would ramble on about all sorts of things from boys and girls, to drugs and alcohol, to world hunger and funny movies. I found out about their fears and insecurities, I learned about their hopes and dreams, and I began to see my children in an entirely different light…because they let me in to see it.
I have one lesson to teach all parents out there: you want to relate to your kids and have an open, honest relationship? Listen to their music. Ask about their music. Don’t tell them it sucks and that in your time ‘music was real’ or something condescending like that; even if the music does suck, and you don’t like it, just listen. Music is the universal language of love and acceptance and it transcends all things in this world. I believe music within our children is even more profound. Every single one of us remembers what it’s like to be a teenager and we all remember the soundtracks of our summers and our high school moments (good or bad). In a time when music is so needed, open your ears and your minds…you just never know what your child will tell you in that most intimate moment of listening to Chance The Rapper next to them. You might be surprised to learn a few things about both the artist and your child.
My children still send me random texts to ‘listen to so-and-so’ or ‘check out this track!’ and I do. I can honestly say, about 75% of the time I absolutely love the stuff they urge me to listen to. I also do the same to them. My daughter and I love a lot of different styles of music and I find we discuss artists at great lengths over FaceTime! My son is a bit more rigid with his genres, but I still let him switch to his phone’s playlist when he hops in the truck and we sing our own version of Carpool Karaoke to NWA or Ice Cube. The staff at the local KFC drive-thru love it! I am sure when my son is a father one day, he will look back at these potentially embarrassing moment and laugh. At least, I hope he does.
So next time your child walks in to the kitchen, oblivious to you as his headphones are blaring, don’t ask him to turn it down, ask him what he’s listening to. Even if the thought of listening to Yelawolf or Nicki Minaj gives you a migraine, just feign interest even for a few minutes; your child will gladly share his music with you, if he thinks you are being sincere. Sharing music is like sharing a part of your soul; it’s intimate and close, and we can tell a lot about ourselves and others with the music they listen to. We hide our deepest secrets in the back of our minds and memories, but a single song can bring them out with ease. Music changes our brain chemistry and teaches us so much about our world, and when we share this with others, we help spread the goodwill and creative energy that we all either possess or just enjoy, and our world becomes a much kinder, gentler place to live in.
A few years ago, my son once exclaimed to me that someone he knew had only five or six songs on their phone. I said to him that not everyone listens to music as much as we do and that it wasn’t a priority for everyone. He looked stricken, and replied: “then what point is there in living?” He was dead serious. Music in our house is like the air we breathe. That might seem different for a lot of people, and that’s ok. Everyone has their favourite pastime or guilty pleasure, and many people enjoy different forms of the arts. But if you are a parent and your child listens to music regularly, especially as they reach the teenage years, I urge you to stop and ask them about their playlist. You may not enjoy Kanye West or YG, but listening to your child talk about bars and riffs and lyrics and being welcomed into a part of their world, without judgement or fear of punishment, is a huge step towards an open and honest relationship with your child. Once that door is opened, the opportunities are there to have an earnest, healthy relationship that helps communication in a manner that benefits both of you.
What’s the worst thing that could happen? Maybe you find some new music to add to your own playlist that you really, really like.