I’m ready (I think…) to receive plenty of conflicting opinions when it comes to this decision my partner and I made when we welcomed our daughter into this world. Trust me when I tell you: I wish I had thought of this choice a little more carefully, considering our first-born’s spirit (and sponge-like recall).
We made the decision NOT to censor our music intentionally in order to expose our first child to diverse music genres and sounds. The music that my partner and I have enjoyed ranges from hip-hop to classical to grunge. It varies depending on our mood, the weather the activity, or simply the time of day.
It had become prevalent that controlling the music that my children listened to was only done within the confines of our own home…and vehicle. Just as we were unable to alter the speech of many of our child-less friends and co-workers, music of all styles and genres is readily available to any age in the grocery stores, local boutiques and restaurants. And so my partner and I began to realize that the language used on local radio stations was barely censored- including our early morning 7am commutes.
Just as many parents feel when they welcome their first child, music is not something we consider censoring. Not until Lizzo comes blaring through your speakers, injecting her empowering yet vulgar choice of language.
When this very specific and accurate moment had finally arrived, during one of our early morning breakfasts, I personally became conflicted as to what to do. I suddenly visualized my own mother changing the radio station and criticizing the use of Bitch within seconds of Lizzo’s current hit-single.
There I stood, watching my young daughter bob her head to the beat. We love Lizzo. We love her talent. We love what she stands for, but dare we boycott her music so we can ensure that our daughter doesn’t repeat those certain…specific words?
As a millennial, I have been exposed to the progressive and political messages that many artists portray through their music. The uses of swear words often emphasize their message and I can appreciate many lyrics, despite their ‘aggressive’ connotations.
Now this is not an excuse to continue listening to Hardcore Trap while breasting my son, but it is a perspective of mine that many older parents do not see nor wish to understand.
Do not get me wrong- we love a good Disney song, especially during those long, painful car rides or the calming Fiest while we ready the kids for bed. But feeling paranoid about what song comes up next on our shuffle is a feeling I’m becoming more aware of. It’s one where I still do not know whether to press next or ignore. It’s where my partner and I purposely distract the toddler with a loud noise or vibrant toy when we expect a swear word to come up. Because, we’re not yet ready to stop listening to the artists we love. And we sure aren’t ready to purchase those censored albums you find at your local Wal-Mart.
With this said, we will purposely play children’s music and artists who do not use crude words during play dates; however, I’ve noticed that this particular topic has been trending amongst a younger, generational parent crowd.
Perhaps it’s a collective, generational decision not to consider swear words ‘bad’ when it comes to music. Maybe we are rebelling against the general public’s decision not to play swear words on the radio and public television stations when we were children.
Parenting techniques do need to adjust as societal norms change. Whether it’s in regard to our vernacular, our diets or our attire. There will always be a change in how we parent compared to previous generations. But as parents and/or guardians, we do have to consider how each child is different and how each one picks up on certain things faster than another. Some children will understand which words are left to the arts, while others may test their limits, whether in the comfort of their own home or suddenly in the middle of a mommy-and-me playgroup.
As for our eldest, she enjoys many genres of music. She knows the lyrics to virtually any song that she had simply heard once. Having said that, she also repeats word choices that I would rather she not use: some used together, forming unique sentences that many may find offensive (though, we are often entertained with her verbal agility).
Has she picked these words up from a frustrated father building her Ikea furniture we have yet graduated from? Did mommy single-finger-wave at that bad man that cut her off? Or did she hear that interesting roll-off-your-tongue fun word from Bethany of Best Coast when she blurted it out in mid-verse?
Luckily, at the tender age of three it is easier for my partner and I to reason with her as she now understands what is appropriate speech and what should be left to the dance-floor (aka our family room’s shag carpet). But will this decision to not censor music change as she grows older?
Will her younger brother’s first word be a spiteful slander?
All I know is that I will be hopeful, and praying, that this f@*!n choice of ours will not backfire in the long run.
Words by Julian Jamie
Muse. Romy Boomsma
Photographed by Latoya J.L. van der Meeren
Editorial for Mother Muse Print No.8 available here