When you’re first sharing music and entertainment with young children, it’s typically the simple, repetitive, please-God-stick-a-fork-in-my-ears variety. Yes, there are exceptions, but when your child is listening to their very favourite song 42 times a day for weeks on end, one of you better get headphones, or else. I have a confession to make - I’ve never listened to the soundtrack to Frozen, and I’m not about to start. I make playlists of music I like, share them with the kids as we drive back and forth to school, and the furthest accommodation I’ve made is to make them their own playlists...of songs we all like. Guess who’s paying for the music app? Bingo.
But suddenly our kids hit an age where they’re singing along to the latest big names, and know more of what’s being played on the radio than we do. They start developing their own taste in music, and an interest in who’s creating it. I’m hitting this stage with my kids, and what an opportunity! Considering my alternatives for engaging conversation range from colouring books, to Nerf guns to the latest prank Vine my 11 year-old is watching - let’s just say music is an easy win for us for connection.
Not too long ago, I was surrounded by music, lights, much applause, and an environment I wouldn’t typically have thought of as kid-friendly. Thanks to the generosity of friends, I was suddenly gifted tickets to this year’s Juno Awards here in Calgary. My dates for the evening? My two kids, aged 7 and 11. And we didn’t just have tickets. We had amazing tickets, with seats in the 8th row, near musical talents both legendary and relatively new. Nothing like seeing nominees, winners, and performers getting up from your section to head to the stage.
Did I hesitate before accepting the tickets? I sure did. Did I want to go? Absolutely. Did I want to go with two kids under the age of twelve? Full brakes. My imagination fed me non-stop pictures of all the ways it could be a terrible idea.
We went anyway. Sometimes terrible ideas are the best ones.
Here’s the thing: Sometimes, when you least expect it, you’ll look at one of your kids and see the person they are becoming. Not the baby; not the wide-eyed first grader. You’ll suddenly realize it isn’t just about parenting and surviving through sleepless nights and crumbs on the counters. First you get to raise them, yes, but if you’re lucky you’ll get to enjoy them for years after you all manage to make it through their teen years alive. It’s probably best you figure out how to hang out together and actually enjoy it.
So, back to the music. Music is a great place to find common ground, and live music a tremendous experience no matter what the age. Every kid can find a way to enjoy music, whether they are old enough to understand the significance of the awards, the history, the acclaim — or whether they spend a good chunk of the evening quietly playing simple games on a tablet, which my 7 year-old did. Yes, I let them both take devices, because I knew they’d experience the night in different ways. My 11 year-old was excited and I knew he had the attention span to sit through it. I also knew he’d be able to follow the stories, and the quips and jokes from the hosts. My youngest would only hear the music, and likely tune out the rest, and that was perfectly okay. She watched most of it, played quietly when she needed a break (her body moving in perfect time to the music being played, mind you), and afterward declared the evening “the best thing ever.” My 11 year-old son enjoyed it all.
I was thrilled to be able to attend, but even more, was very pleased at our night out together. The newer music was familiar to them and an easy sell. Some older tunes and iconic performers gave me a chance to relay my own memories of music growing up. None of those conversations would have happened at home.
It’s not always easy to connect in genuine ways as our kids get older, but once found, these connections will be what sustain us through teen years and beyond. It was a great reminder that we need to connect with who our kids are now, but also with an eye to the future.