The Parent Article

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by Victoria Birch

Driving my first-born home from hospital I was overwhelmed by the pressing need to play the Fuck Buttons … really loud. I quite like the Fuck Buttons, but ‘Ribs Out’ in particular sounds like civilisation being butchered in a blender. My poor newborn. Only days earlier he caught the glint of a surgeon’s scalpel as he was forcibly evicted from his watery hidey place. Now, his freshly minted ear canal was taking a pummelling from something that could feasibly be administered to grease the vocal chords of uncooperative insurgents.

Oh I had all those feelings you’re supposed to have as a new parent. I’d have cheerfully died for him. I developed a cast iron resolve when faced with inhuman excretions and could muster remarkable levels of neurosis if he looked vaguely unwell. I just couldn’t listen to music he supposedly might like to hear.

I guess there was a deep-seated fear that the Democratic Republic of Me was on the verge of being invaded by the United Front of Banal Sounds. While heavily pregnant (and seemingly stitched to the couch) I caught an episode of Playschool. Here was my future. A neutered piano, castrated of subtlety, nuance and heart, churning out ham-fisted nursery rhymes with all the joie de vivre of a dead cat.

I assume a bucket load of cash goes into researching music that children respond to. I didn’t care. It was a foul, putrid sound. If this was my destiny then the resistance movement would need a fearsome armoury. You’d better say your prayers kid. After you hear Mogwai’s ‘Fear Satan’, you’ll think the Fuck Buttons are pop sell-outs.

Although I put up a determined fight, my pathological desire to keep the tide of children’s music from the door ended quite quickly. For a start my synapses were starting to fray at all that heavy-duty reverb and de-tuned everything. I also discovered that television is mummy’s big flat-screened helper and if you want your kids to sit still for hours on end the mute button is non-optional.

And that’s how I heard the lovely theme to Ebb And Flo; a little cartoon about a girl and her dog. They play by the sea and have lots of unthreatening, gentle adventures. A lady (who sounds like the nicest person in the whole world) sings a pretty, soft melody that tugs at a simple guitar refrain. It’s all over in about 30 seconds (and sounds even better in French).

It’s nothing spectacular or sophisticated and it made me want to slap myself. Of course! That cliché about reliving your childhood through your kids includes the type of songs that make you go all misty-eyed and nostalgic. Perhaps I didn’t think I could love children’s music now I was grown-up and listening to grown-up complicated things. But I do.

And I don’t mean the Yo Gabba Gabba stuff that supposedly bridges the gap between big and little people (but is mainly a bunch of bands shoving child-friendly words into un child-friendly songs). I mean The Wiggles’ fabulous hoedown ‘Old Dan Tucker’, Charlie And Lola’s bouncy retro pop and ‘Goodnight Tired Eyes’, the sweet lullaby that closes children’s channel Cbeebies for the day. Pure songs, proper melodies and no agenda other than to make you dance, smile or sleep.

Naturally there are some horrors out here in child world. LazyTown’s hyperactive Euro-pop has the ability to make my day a lot less nice.

And my three-year-old knows better than to ask for Carrie And David’s Pop Shop. But really, rather than undergoing a musical lobotomy, becoming a parent is like getting a super-soft comfort blanket made of cotton-candy sounds. I don’t just love children’s music because it reminds me of my childhood; I love it because it’s another place to find great new music.

Other loveliness:

Low – Family Tree (taken from Yo Gabba Gabba – it’s the exception that proves the rule)
Justine Clark – Dinosaur Roar
Poppets’ Town – Theme Song
Micky Mouse Clubhouse – Hotdog
Miffy and Friends – Theme Song

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