I'm one of those people who can't drive without music playing in the background. Maybe it's because I grew up in New York City, where cacophony is the underlying soundtrack to life. Or maybe it's because I'm just restless by nature or have an innate need to be entertained or to have one of my senses stimulated. But I'd never appreciated nor really understood the notion of "comfortable silence". To me, silence was just plain uncomfortable.
So logically, my kids grew up knowing that a car ride also meant it was time to play some tunes.
That was fine for the first few years of parenting. Mommy and I took turns playing whatever we were in the mood for (although Su-Lyn graciously usually let me choose). We figured we were giving the little ones a good education in music and they'd grow up influenced by our tastes.
But you know what they say about best laid plans. Because pretty quickly your sweet little children, who do whatever you want them to do (and listen to whatever you want them to listen to), start to become independent little people who want to assert their own ideas and opinions.
In the abstract, it’s a really good thing. As parents, you want your kids to become strong individuals that are able to assert themselves when necessary. I mean, none of us want to raise sheep.
In practice, however, dealing with an opinionated four-year-old, who wants to listen to the same song on repeat doesn't make you proud so much as it makes you want to cry.
I think I've listened to Elsa singing about her personal power problems so many times I know the lyrics better than most tween girls out there. And to make life even more amusing for me, and thanks (no thanks) to the wonders of Spotify, we now have Let It Go on her playlist in Mandarin, Korean and Japanese –for some reason, she wanted to hear the songs in these specific languages. What amazes me is the fact that she's actually able to sing along to a fair amount of these songs, in languages to which she isn't otherwise exposed.
In addition to Elsa, I'm tortured daily by her sister Anna, and fellow Disney princesses Moana, Ariel and Rapunzel (although I honestly kind of like Mandy Moore's songs in Tangled). Not to mention a bunch of singing psychedelic-coloured ponies, unicorns and alicorns.
Whenever my own princess is riding in the car, she not-so-politely tells me to put on her music. I suspect she takes great pleasure in telling me that “daddy's music is awful”.
And it's not just her. Neither of my children seem to appreciate my music tastes. My son also complains loudly when we get into the car and I put on one of my playlists. Not that his tastes are anything to be particularly proud of. The sole playlist he's created for himself on Spotify consists of a half dozen Pokemon-related songs, songs from the two Lego movies, a very random song by someone or some ones named Parry Fripp called I Love Bread, and Wise Master Wu from the Lego Ninjago movie. What is ridiculously amusing is that he doesn’t even particiularly like several of the Pokemon songs on his playlist – or know how some of the songs even got on there.
One song that he does enjoy tremendously, but I suspect more because of my reaction, is called the Pokemon Red And Blue Theme. It's nothing more than electronic sounds akin to video game noise. I completely hate this song. I can't even really call it a song. It's just noise, and annoying noise at that. He knows every time it plays I go a little cray-cray. These days, the minute I hear its opening beeps, I quickly skip to the next track.
When both kids are in the car, things can get a little heated. Both want to be in control of the music. If neither knows how to ask nicely, we'll often end up playing something that either my wife or I have chosen. Of course, all that means is we get two pissed off children instead of just one.
There’s more. What the kids love most – much to my annoyance and my wife's constant horror – is to treat me like their personal jukebox. They love choosing individual songs, calling them out to me from their seats, and asking me to put these in the queue. Of course, in the same way that my wife and I expect immediate responses when we ask them to do things for us, they now expect me to immediately do what they've asked. Which, when you're also the one driving is both difficult and a little dangerous. Far too many times I've had visions of crashing on the expressway while trying to queue up Part Of Your World for my demanding wannabe mermaid princess.
My kids probably think I'm a bit of an ass and a complete hypocrite (not that they know the word yet) because I'm constantly telling them to wait when they pop in their virtual quarters and make song requests. And while "wait" just means “wait until we get to a red light so I can safely (and legally) comply”, given the level of whining coming from behind, you'd think I asked the kids to wait until they were eighteen.
The irony of raising children is that sometimes the things you previously didn't like or couldn't understand, you now value and love. Like silence. When I've heard Pikachu sing "pika" for the thousandth time, all I really want – no, need – is a little comfortable silence.