Jackson has this crazy, five-colored clock radio that we can't use as a clock because it tick-tocks too loudly when he's trying to sleep. But he loves the crappy-sounding AM/FM receiver and turns the little purple tuner knob to find his favorite songs like a manic DJ on three bowls of Cocoa Puffs. He calls it the clock that sings. He only has a few favorite songs--currently tunes by Spoon, Tegan and Sara, The Ramones, Peter Bjorn And John, and his preschool folk-music sampler are topping the list. The rest he makes up on the fly. As in, "I like this song. It's fast and I like fast music."
He also likes really loud music. Yesterday I heard him DJ'ing down the hall. Ronnie James Dio's passionate delivery wafted throughout the house, with that distinctive synthesizer plincking in the background, like something from "Cats." Jackson paused in his tuning so I guess he approved and we all rocked to the sonic majesty, the compressed, intense EMOTION that is Rainbow In The Dark. I always thought this was some kind of power ballad to a girl who's like a rainbow in the dark, but it's actually an existential soliloquy on the darkness that befalls you when you're kicked out of Black Sabbath. I wish "American Idol" was more like this.
I don't believe in imposing my musical taste on my child. It sort of happens naturally without any effort from me anyway, but if he wants to watch and sing along with Barney, so be it. I once read a blog comment from a mom who insisted on banishing all children's music from the house because her child only liked the Talking Heads anyway. And what's more, only "Remain in Light" would do. That's a mom who isn't giving her kid much of a musical education.
At least with Barney, as irritating to adults as he is, kids learn songs about sharing, playing fair, and showing affection. The Talking Heads will get you a lot of disconnected alienation that you can dance to. Best to mix those messages up a little since children under seven are raging egomaniacs anyway. Might as well expose them to a few songs about friends making us super-happy. Besides, studies show that simple, repetitive music is good for pre-readers who learn words, sentence structures and rhyming schemes by singing along. When Jackson was really little I got some bluegrass CDs so we could both listen to something basic, yet heartfelt and danceable (and deceptively difficult--ever try plucking a banjo?).
I give the kid a wide range of the arts to choose from. He'll sort it all out by age ten or so. This morning Jackson stopped the dial on The Stairsteps' Ooh Child and we danced around the kitchen to the ultimate 70s cheer-you-up song. There's room in our breakfast nook for Barney, Dio and The Stairsteps.