Raffi or No Raffi, That Is the Question

The other day, a friend of mine commented on Facebook that he hoped his baby daughter liked Raffi's music enough to compensate for his own feelings about it. It's something I could have said myself--in fact, I very well may have.

Music has always been an important part of my life. Indeed, when I think back over my life, so much of it is connected to the music I was listening to at the time. I can barely think of my childhood without thinking about how my brother and I used to rock out in the back seat of our mom's car as she played the New Wave mix tape her friend had given her. Middle school makes me think of the Glen Miller my 6th-grade science teacher played when he was teaching me how to ballroom dance. High school, it's listening to U2's Joshua Tree on the bus ride back from the Desert Trip. I bonded with my grandfather through big band music before he died, indie rock was a big part of what brought my brother and I together after I moved out, and jazz was something I connected with my stepdad over. And, of course, Juliette and I met when we were in a musical together.

I've always wanted my children to be exposed to lots of kinds of music, and especially good music. It's something that Juliette and I have argued about from time to time, what's appropriate for children of different ages to listen to. I do believe that some music isn't right for kids, and that it's the parent's job to figure out what's OK and what's not. But there's so much good music out there that I feel it's stifling to limit your kids to classical and children's music. When I was five years old, I was listening to children's music and bubblegum pop, true, but I was also hearing rock, reggae, New Wave, and even Chilean folk music, and I think I'm the better for it.

I used to think that with so much to choose from, you'd be doing your kid a disservice to play them sugary kid's music. Having had firsthand experience with my own child now, though, I've had to rethink things a bit. Oh, I do still play a variety of music for Jason, but the reality is that he likes children's music. It's simple for a good reason: that's what one-year-olds can follow. Mind you, I still think that a lot of children's music is done by hacks who couldn't cut it singing for adults--and, for some reason, that stuff seems to account for about three-quarters of what's on the cable kid's music channel--but there's good stuff, too. Moreover, the simple tunes that Jason can follow not only get more smiles out of him and hold his attention better, but they really seem to be doing a lot to help his mental development along.

The music snob in me used to fret now and again that my kids might end up not having good taste in music. I'd hear what was playing on the Top 40 radio stations and groan in anticipation of having to listen to the 2020 equivalent of Daughtry or post-Fergie Black-Eyed Peas. And every time, Juliette would tell me to just relax and that I had to let them listen to what they wanted to, that shoving my music down their throats would just end up making them resentful. They'd figure it out on their own, and if they didn't, it wouldn't be the end of the world. And, the thing is, she's right. Because, if I'm being honest, I have to admit that when I was ten, I thought Michael Bolton's Soul Provider was pretty awesome. Looking back, I can remember the pained look my mom would get when I'd ask to pop that tape into her car stereo, but she let me and I seem to have come out OK, so I guess when the time comes, I'll be able to do the same.

(By the way, Mom, I never said thanks for that. So, thanks.)



Raffi is the shit dude, Bananphone, Baby Beluga, Brush Your Teeth...