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Tuesday, June 07, 2005


William Wants a Doll

I spent the most recent rainy Saturday afternoon making a mix CD of children’s songs for my friend Janna and her son Oliver. Jim and I have always shared a love of music and a love of mix tapes. I hope I can encourage a love of music in my daughter Maggie too.

I consider the compilation CD to be a bit of a masterpiece (I consider most of my compilations to be masterpieces). That is, aside from that Madonna “Little Star” song which I now regret including in the mix because it is just way too hokey and really just not very good at all in my opinion. I like to share these masterpieces because I feel it’s my duty in life to encourage and perpetuate a sensibility for, and good taste in music. At least what I consider to be good taste in music.

I made two copies. One for Oliver and one for Maggie and I to keep. It’s so nice to have the best songs from your collection all together on one CD. We listened to the songs as I got Madge and I ready for the day, and I realized that they seemed to have a common thread running through them. Here are some of the titles: “It takes all kinds of people”, “to everyone around the world”, “Your friendship is the bestest present ever” “the rainbow connection” “when you wish upon a star’.
The underlying messages seemed to be: dream big, possessions are not as important as people, and that people are boring if they are all the same. Tolerance, if you will, is a great and wonderful thing to be celebrated. Dreams are important. Stuff is not.

As I listened to these songs, my heart soared with hopefulness for Maggie, Oliver and their sweet mystical futures. I want the world to be a friendly place to them. I want them to keep their eyes on the prize. I want them to differentiate between the rhetoric of shame and convention spewed upon them and the sweet little nuggets of their own truths they will sift out themselves. All by themselves. Like sand through those little mesh screens we used to play with in the sandbox. Beautiful, sparkly rocks of truth amidst all the boring brown particles. Theirs and theirs alone. I want them to question. I want them to sleep well, with pure hearts. Or at least sleep well active in the pursuit of finding their pure hearts.

Deep down I am a pathetic sap with a dash of realism tossed in for balance. I truly root for the underdog every single time, and the most irritating quality a person can possess in my eyes is an arrogant and blind sense of entitlement. I am also enough of a realist to consider how often I wield a sense of entitlement without seeming to notice. I try to be aware of my own hypocrisy, and in doing so I try to remember how important tolerance is no matter what side of the fence you are on. A rigid person makes an ass of themselves much more often than a flexible one. Then again, a person hates to be wishy-washy, but I digress…..

I began to think about what led me to choose these specific songs for Maggie and Oliver, and that led me to think about the songs I loved as a child. I am certain they influenced me. “Free to be you and Me” was a staple at our house. I remember listening to the songs and stories, and even at the young age of five or six years old, I knew that the concept of “William wants a doll” was revolutionary. A BOY wanting a DOLL? And that’s okay? Well, the song said it was okay, and I believed it. A Mommy can really do anything a Daddy can, but a Daddy can’t have a baby. That was true too. The album’s messages turned a lot of conventional ideas on their ears. For that I will forever be grateful to Marlo Thomas. I think that woman was terribly brave, terribly creative, terribly generous, and terribly wise.

Then I realized how much a parents choices do influence their children. My parents decided to buy that album, and it really did open my mind up even at that young age. Thanks Mom and Dad (or probably aunt Linda now that I think of it) for buying that album and for letting us listen to it. It was entertaining and a lot less creepy than hiding a tape player under our beds with subliminal messages of peace and tolerance played over and over.

I also have to consider why so many parents around my age with young children are so nostalgic for tidbits of their own sweet memories to pass along to their kids. I don’t remember my parents buying copies of “Dick and Jane” for us and taking a misty-eyed trip down memory lane. I do see a lot of parents buying DVDs of “School House Rock”, and “Free to be you and me” for their kids. Was our kid stuff really that much better? I think the answer is yes. I think it was better because the message was better.

I don’t recall being bombarded with commercials for video games and happy meals. I remember when the teachers let us watch “School House Rock” during recess when it rained. If we behaved we got to watch it again, backwards, which we all thought was side-splittingly funny. I do remember the toy in a box of cereal. My sister Julie and I used to fight over it. To get another toy, we had to eat the whole box of cereal. It was a sweet non-objectifying form of marketing. I think we were considered children, and not a market segment.

I will do what I can to expose Maggie to the sandboxes of the world. I will try my hardest to choose the happiest, funnest, sunniest sandboxes I can find. The kind of sandboxes where a kid can feel like a kid. Then I will hand her a little screen sifter and hope with all my heart that she discovers some really amazing rocks as she lets the sand fall through. I hope she can get to the good stuff.


Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

Reading your archives now - finding even more stuff we have in common. We have both DVDs (Free to Be and Schoolhouse Rock), plus the Sesame Street 35th anniversary CD collection. I hope they help us in our efforts to teach Tacy and CJ how to be good people.

And I have an Aunt Linda too who is my favorite aunt (and one of my favorite, most admired people in my life).

8:13 PM  

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