When my boys were only a few months old I placed them nicely in their little Daydreamers and entertained them for an hour showing them a carefully-selected list of Kylie Minogue music videos, while enthusiastically updating them about the three decade career of the pop princess that they had missed having not being born yet. Little did I know this was the spontaneous birth of a parenting habit that I imagine I share with other gay dads: exposing our kids to gay culture, and especially “gay” music [OH, don’t call Human Services yet. Relax and keep reading. Sheesh!]
While other kids at that age heard only “The Wheels on the Bus,” and “Itzy Bitzy Whatever,” my kids had already shaken their little feet to Bananarama at the age of 6 months or so. They’ve watched all the videos of gay-favorite UK pop group Steps while I narrated the storyline of the videos to them – and then they asked to see them again (I was so proud). They watched their first Eurovision Song Contest at 8 months old and routed for Belgium. Bottom line: my kids are tapping into gay music history.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against The Wheels on the Bus and Happy & You Know It, and I even encouraged our nanny to play it to them, but I believe that there are two main reasons why I keep exposing my kids to music typically adored by gays:
1. I think that production-wise, kids’ songs are a little too simple. It’s like the producers of kids’ songs are always cheap, there’s no interesting beat or instrumental lines. It’s always very basic- and rather boring. I believe that “grown up” music is more sophisticated and opens the kids’ minds much more (note that my husband questions the extent to which Steps is “grown up” music, but anyway…).
2. I am very excited and moved to introduce my kids to the music that I love, as I’m sure every parent is. I think that the younger they are, the more open to it they will be, so why not start when they are born?! When they turn 16 they’ll probably turn to Hip Hop and Rihanna kinds of crap, or whatever crap they’re listening to by then (it’s likely that in 2034 Cher will be making a comeback, looking fabulous). So as long as they still like their parents, their parents’ taste in music should be a part of what they have to learn about us.
3. (Ok 3 reasons): If I’m going to be forced to listen to a song 238 times, I’d rather it be a Minogue song (Dannii Minogue is great too!).
Besides that, I really believe that it’s the right thing to do, to expose our kids to gay “culture” – meaning, music and artists that are considered ‘gay icons,’ old children’s TV shows that are remembered today mostly because our community members still adore them. Even exposing them to drag queens and attending every gay pride parade. It’s not like we can “turn them gay,” despite what homophobic people tend to think.
Gays Don’t Give Up On Music
I recently participated in a Facebook thread about music us gay dads play for our kids. Names like ABBA and Madonna were dropped there, and it brought me back to the thought I dwell on that we gay parents have an opportunity to change parenting for the better, just as we changed so many other areas that we’ve touched. Recent studies show (as if we really needed it) that kids from same-sex parented families are among the most wanted, loved and cared for (granted, some of us pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to have them while straight people pay something like $13 for a cheap bottle of wine and nine months later they pop out [please send hate email to ItsA@Joke.com]). I think that there are a lot of gay men who really connect to music. It’s part of our DNA, and I believe it’s a part we don’t give up when we become parents. My husband speaks to moms at our local ‘Mommy and Me’ class and they are always in shock when he tells them that we don’t play ‘childrens music’ to our kids. To me it’s a part of that old notion that some parents have, that when they bring kids into the world, suddenly their worlds stop being theirs and start being all about the kids. They tend to neglect who they were before.
Maybe there’s a simple explanation why, for gay men, it’s harder to forget who we were before the kids: Having gone through the whole coming out process, the acceptance of who we are, and then the endless investment in ourselves – can we really so quickly toss it out and turn into “Earth Mother”? I’m not sure because I was never a straight guy, but it feels like this must be at least part of the story.
Kids, Come See This Cute Paula Abdul Video With The Cat
I don’t know how other dads play music for the kids, but I use YouTube and Spotify. I create playlists, I introduce them to fun, colorful music videos I think they will like. And I play music for myself. I’m can very often be seen dancing around the house listening to PopApp radio. “Grown up” music surrounds my kids. And let me tell you something: They LOVE it. When I dance to them or with them, looking like a mantis, it keeps the good energy and creativity at home, which is something I find opens their little hearts and minds, and it’s really amazing. No one sees it besides them and they probably won’t remember it so who cares?!
Anyway, my experience in some of my straight friends’ households is a lack of music, and especially grown up music. Maybe the parents think that it’s important for the kids to hear Itzy Bitzy stuff, or maybe they don’t even think about the possibility of playing anything else. But if you’re the kind of parent who casually decides to show your kids the Paula Abdul “Opposites Attract” music video – and think (or be told) you are insane – just know that you’re not alone!