Monday, October 24, 2005

Theme and Variations II

Do you remember when you were in school and studying different “units?” You know, your teacher had a theme for the whole week on her lesson plan. Maybe you were studying the life cycle of plants and each day you talked about a different element: sunshine (and maybe the solar system), water (maybe touch on weather), soil (and environmentalism). By the end of the week, you knew that you needed nutrients in the soil, clean water and plenty of light for your plant to grow and that healthy plant would contribute oxygen to the air that you breathe. Your teacher had the whole day planned out, each day.

I finally started reading The 3 Martini Playdate and found Mary P’s link to Anne Taintor all in the same week! I love it when a broader plan unfolds and things all mesh—like it was a planned lesson or something! I have not finished the book yet but expect to very soon!

I read a few pages this morning and then made myself get on the treadmill, thankful at least for this time to listen to “my music” as I have various Disney soundtracks playing in the car about 80% of the time. (I thank the good Lord that Disney has at least employed Phil Collins on many recent tracks so I can listen to them 40 times in a row without driving into a building).

After running and walking and still not getting anywhere, I came back upstairs and snuck in one more chapter. This one was aptly title, “Children’s Music: WHY?” This book has given me many “slap on the hand” moments as well as “slap in the head” times too. Of course! WHY?? My parents didn’t have a CD player in the car. We had a few Disney soundtracks ourselves back then (on LPs!!!) but those were not quite portable! We had to make do with what was on the radio or singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” like this author.

I love music. Though I did not graduate with a major in music, I started off in that direction. I want my kids to love music. However, in succumbing to playing some of the tunes repeatedly, I had not considered the harm I’ve done to all of us until recognizing it on page 96.

In discussing “music with a moral” she explains that while there may be nothing wrong with telling your kids to brush their teeth…

…The messages are innocuous enough, but you are introducing your children to
prosaic, overly literal lyrics, coupled with dispirited, mostly lousy music. If
you are preparing them for a lifetime of listening to Top 40 pop hits, then you
will have given them the perfect start, as they will develop no discernible
musical taste.
But there is also a very real mental health danger to bad
music that is rarely mentioned: The melody and lyrics will get stuck on a
continual loop in one’s head, often for weeks at a time. Your child will be
humming the tune under his breath at all hours of the day, and you will
absentmindedly sing it while making coffee in the morning. What little sanity
you had left will slowly crumble; you will soon find yourself making
smiley-faced pancakes, collecting colorfully costumed teddy bears, and
decorating with plaid. You will begin to think that mother-daughter matching
outfits are really cute! Your friends will no longer drop by, because you offer
them healthful fruit snacks instead of a glass of wine, and they have to hear
about all the funny things your child said. Avoid bad music and you avoid an
insidious and downward descent into sheer blandness.

I had no idea that this woman had visited my house! I know I’ve been feeling mental illness creeping up but I did not attribute it to the music! It’s time to put the Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald and Gershwin back into the car! I can’t forget Harry, either. I was so thrilled a few years ago to find that Harry Connick, Jr. had recorded an album of children’s songs. He included many of my old favorites, some of which were already on my daughter’s list too (the album came out when she had to watch the Wizard of Oz on a daily basis)—but they’re much more fun when Harry sings them! Not that I have my own schoolgirl crush on the man, I just like his music. Really. Just because his name pops up in my posts from time to time, you should not go jumping to conclusions.

Well, my week started off according to some vague plan. Now I’m distracted. Yep. I do remember when I was in school. I remember how my teacher tried to have us follow her schedule. This was the part of the day where I’d hear “Lory? Are we daydreaming again?”

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