Sometimes I get the music of childhood going on in my head, and it’s intolerable.
Note that this is not a metaphor; I’m not talking about some ineffable sense of the experience of being young or anything like that.
No, I mean the particular genre of music that has come to adorn childrens’ toys, childrens’ mobile apps, and so on. It has a very particular character, a combination of being joyful or at the least sunny, innocent, and simple.*
(*Note that I’m not sure exactly how this works; I am not now nor have I ever been deeply steeped in music theory or music education. I am essentially musically illiterate at the end of the day. I only know that is is clearly possible to apply such adjectives to music and have the application seem to be right.)
With children of four and six, I’ve now spent several years steeped in and surrounded by such music, so it makes sense that it’s somewhere close to top-of-mind often.
It’s not that I find this music to be irritating; far from it. Most of it is lovely, beautiful, or if nothing else, charming. The problem is that recalling or hearing these melodies is painful. It takes a lot in life to really get to me, but kid-music does. Every time.
With the kids growing up and losing more of their innocence every day (certainly a painful process in its own right, one that is hard to watch as a parent), and with their young lives now having been affected by the auto-tragedy of divorce in ways that are often only too obvious, the sound of innocence—when expressed as clearly and purely as it is in music—just plain makes me want to cry.
It hurts my soul. It brings home, deeply, viscerally, all that has been lost and all that is still to be lost. It creates in me an incredible longing for the companionship of that innocence which is now largely lost and which will, in time, be absent altogether.
Kid-music opens or illuminates a void in me—a lack—that I desperately feel as though I need to fill, but cannot for reasons of practicality, propriety, and morality.
Children must grow up. My job is to help them to do it, not to create any sort of impediment or hint of negativity about this process. Pain will be a part of the deal, as it is for every human being. This is the way of things. But boy, does it hurt to see it happen—to see the placid ecstasy of early childhood gradually decay into the realpolitik of everyday life in family and society.
Ben Folds: “It sucks to grow up.”
Yes. Yes, it does. And it sucks to watch those that you love most in the world having to suffer through growing up.