Sadly, for my listening and opining pleasure, music tastes change. “Kids’ Place Live,” “is for little kids,” both my ‘older’ kids grumble should I dare select the station when we’re driving together — a forced intimacy that will remain a constant for at least a few more years.

Sadly, driving in silence isn’t going to happen. Without the radio the kids would likely squabble, so the dream of denying their presence in the car shall remain a fantasy.  Thus, I justify the intrusion of the overproduced pop music my tween insists on and my son tolerates in our little travel box. Why?  Because I believe that by listening to it with them that I can direct conversations about it and our world that will hopefully influence my kids while they still might listen to me.

“Give it to me I’m Worth It, Baby I’m Worth it,” repeated Fifth Harmony, yet again, as I drove my daughter to day camp.

“Honey, if someone has to repeat ‘they’re worth it’ so often, then they may not really think that highly of themselves,” I opined, imparting wise insights about bombasts and surely saving my first-born from bad relationships.  “Good, mom, good mom,” I sang my own praises in my head. Then the little pistol pointed her barrel at me and fired off a good point.

“Mom, the rap has bad words in it, that’s why they’re repeating ‘I’m Worth It’ so much because it’s not satellite radio,” my 11-year old said with a world-weary roll of her eyes.  “Oh,” I said as I ate crow at the stoplight.

But it’s not just me.  Today’s parents must compete with cable television, satellite radio, and the plethora of i-products that channel an even greater number of messages about our kids’ place in the world. And, because these media offer more stimulating, loud and often -more appealing messages, parents are in danger of losing our prominence as an influencer of our children’s values and actions.  So, if you can’t beat ‘em then co-opt ‘em because there are some positive messages to be culled from popular music and because maternal advice is worth it and is often more palatable if offered with a beat.

Now that my daughter taught me the words to “OMI Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)” the two of us ‘sing’ along, “Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader/ She is always right there when I need her.” I ‘sing’ even more loudly “Mama loves you too,” especially when my little boy is in the car. I want my children to be their future partners’ cheerleaders and expect them to do the same in return. And would it be a crime if they picked folks I like? God, I hope I like my children’s partners. I know I won’t like all of them, but hope that the ones who last will be palatable— because I do have visions of frequent family gatherings with my adult children.

Like they have on “Modern Family,” which I watch with my daughter sometimes because there is unstructured togetherness at home too and all of us need our down time.  I practically jumped up and screamed – with the enthusiasm people usually reserve for touchdowns – when Haley Dunphy refused to go on the date she had been excited about because the gorgeous guy was hours late.  Haley walks away from the boy’s car uttering – I really do wish I could quote it verbatim – that she is worth too much to be kept waiting for hours.  “Yeah,” I said loudly, “if a boy keeps you waiting for hours he doesn’t respect your time and therefore won’t respect you enough to treat you as you deserve!” My daughter grunted an acknowledgment, which I hope means the sentiment got through.

I turn up the volume when Megan Trainor sings about her future husband, “You got that 9-5/But baby so do I.” I urged my daughter to demand the same of her future partner –  regardless of who earns more money – because I want her marriage to be a true partnership. And told my son, “You’d better marry a woman who is your match – and respect how she spends her time whether she is working outside of the home, within it or both.” Again, my wisdom was greeted with grunts – and a change of the radio station. I gripped the wheel and decided to believe that my opinions seep through to their psyches.

Yes, there have always been a myriad of influences on kids but today’s are louder and packaged better. And I understand this as I grip my iPhone like a lover–without which I’m off kilter [as I discovered on a hike and wrote about here] True, studies continue to list parents as children’s chief influencers — although not always in the teen years and not without more effort than past generations had to exert.  I bet my mother and hers before her shared this sentiment – that they had to work harder than the previous generation – and I think it’s true for each of us. With each era, technology improves more quickly and claims a tighter grip on our psyches’ and those of our children.

So I work with technology while trying to limit it as best I can so that the lens my kids view it and the world with, is one that I’ve helped them color.


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