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Unburdening Social Obligations

Last night, my partner’s brother came over with his sons (ages 16 and 13). They’re great doting cousins.

My kids were excited for their arrival, but when they walked into the house, my older kid promptly veered into “shy kid” land, wanting to “play indoors” and not interact.

One family rule we don’t negotiate is “you must say hello to friends and family. You don’t have to talk more than that, but you must say hello.”

And holy cow my older one took that to heart – she said “hello” then disappeared.

But that’s fine.

I tell myself over and over that I don’t want to push my kids to become slaves to social obligations. I have this revulsion because so much of my upbringing was spent pleasing people around me.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m social and out-going. I love groups of friends and comradery and fellowship.

However, my entire youth was spent feeling the desperate need to be the life of the party and center of the action. My FOMO trampled any self-awareness that could “just being chill and quiet”.

I wanted to please/impress/delight everyone around me, so I pushed myself to be “that guy” All. The. Time.

It was exhausting.

I came from a family life that always put forward the best, happiest filter. So it just didn’t occur to me that we could be anything but social butterflies.

And as an adult, I’ve finally realized I don’t like big parties (I’d rather have a conversation around a dinner table with eight friends, max) and I don’t like hosting (I’m terrified no one will show up) and I don’t like going out all that much (I’d rather hang in my sweats.)

Maybe I’m just getting old?

But what’d I do that evening with my kids and their cousins? Forced socializing.

When my older kid wanted to go inside, I cajoled her into joining the rest of us outside kicking balls and playing chase in the summer twilight.

And I got pissed when she didn’t want to join in.

Granted, she was whining for me, “Daddy! I want you to come inside and play with me!”

Perhaps I was a teensy bit justified. “No, Sweetie. I’m playing outside with family and it’s a gorgeous summer evening. I’m not coming inside.”

I didn’t make her feel bad, but I didn’t make her feel good. It’s just that, “NO! On a gorgeous July evening, I’m not going to indulge the sudden impulse to play with those damn LOL dolls!”

(And mind you this wasn’t with random people that might induce shyness…but actual family whom they know and love.)

A good friend of mine inadvertently has given me permission to pump the brakes on forced socializing. Once I invited his family over for a playdate leading to pizza on a Friday evening and he said, “You know what? Fridays our kids usually just melt down and it ends in tears. We’re more likely gonna play it mellow at home.”

(He also pointed out to me that he loathes our school’s “publishing parties” all the adults are crammed in a room frantically pretending to enjoy the classroom party, when in reality it’s just a sweaty fest of parents judging other kids. I’ve given myself permission to loathe these parties, too…or at least to lower my expectations and not force myself into enjoying them, at the very least.)

So anyway. Summer evenings spent indoors.

Am I being a hypocrite? Am I making my kid feel bad for not jumping into horseplay with her older cousins?

Gavin! Remember: you weren’t that, either. Playing sports was not my idea of an idyllic summer evening. (Kick-the-can with neighbor kids was the ideal.)

Forty-five minutes later, she came out of her shell and was intrigued by the baseball game we’d all struck up.

She picked up a bat of her own volition, after I’d long since chilled the hell out.

And she was GOOD! A little slugger.

It just takes her a little time, perhaps.

Or not.

Or whatever.

My take-home from the night? Try try TRY not to pressure your precious child into being instant participants. Let them observe. Let them suss it out. Let them play inside a little bit. Who cares if everyone’s outside? They can do their own thing and make their own decisions about socializing.

But don’t force the comradery to keep up appearances that your kid is – what? Well-adjusted? Smart? Sociable?

How about let them be their own form of well-adjusted?

Don’t force the socializing or the happiness, because that just takes the enjoyment out of it.

Even on gorgeous summer evenings.

The Best Music to Make Kids Interesting Humans: The 1970’s.

The Best Music to Make Kids Interesting Humans: The 1970’s.

I just need my kids to be kind…and smart…and work hard. Okay, I lied. In addition to those attributes, I need them to be moderately interesting conversationalists. And because we are having a crisis of endless pop music looping in our household, I need to craft a list of the best music from the 1970’s to make my kids interesting humans.

My older kid is currently obsessed with Britney Spears. Britney walks (and gyrates) on water for my 7yo and, while I’m unabashedly in love with bubble gum pop music, my 7yo now thinks that skimpy schoolgirl outfits and head-to-toe red pleather is the very definition of what performance, singing and dancing should encompass.

And I am not okay with this.

With all due respect to Britney, pop music is simple and basic. There’s a reason I doubt “Hit Me Baby One More Time” will ever be in the canon of “recommended music for kids.”

In the car the other day, I insisted on avoiding Ms. B. Spears and scrolled through YouTube to find some more kid-friendly music, which included “Supercalifragilistic…” and “Do-Re-Mi” and suddenly both my kids were delighted to sing these songs that are relatable for their hearts and minds.

But I need to sophisticate my kids beyond basic nursery rhymes, however marvelous Julie Andrews’ biggest hits may be.

In the canon of American music, our kids deserve to know more than JUST the GoNoodle songs, more than JUST nursery rhymes, and more than JUST classical music.

My children deserve to sing along with something less insufferable than Britney’s kewpie doll “yeah, yeah’s”. And even complex riffing doesn’t give you the musical basis to be able to sing precisely and on-pitch.

Hence: this list of the best music from the 1970’s to make kids interesting humans.

Because I can’t abide any more “Oops, I Did it Again” (more than once a day. Don’t get me wrong. I love me some pop music.)

For now, this is the ECKnox “Best Music to Make Your Kids Moderately Interesting Humans: the 1970’s” compilation to make any person minimally interesting. (Oh, yes. I plan to expand these playlists.) But without these basics from the American (and occasional English) rock canon of the 1970’s, you’re just not interesting. #sorrynotsorry.

Give your kids a leg-up on being interesting and share in my first Spotify playlist.

Feel free to add or amend. I fully expect you musical trolls to criticize. Remember: I limited this to 20 diverse songs from the 70’s that would/could/should appeal to young kids. These are the basics for the starting point of an interesting and cultured life for your kids (and you.)

What did I miss?

This is the essential rock basics your kids need to know to be redeemable people.

1. Take Me Home, Country Road, John Denver

Because you’re never too old to feel that spine-tingling nostalgia tipping into full-blown tears. (As an aside, this is one of our very favorite picture books in our family.)

2. American Pie, Don McLean 

Because duh.

3. ABC, Jackson 5

Because we’re never too old for an alphabetical review.

4. Three Little Birds, Bob Marley

Because our job is to reassure our kids

5. Crocodile Rock, Elton John

Because the happiness of his melody gives us all the feels. (Forgive the link to the movie Rocketman instead of to actual Elton John – I just love the crafting of this scene demonstrating the elevating power of music.)

6. Think, Aretha Franklin

Cuz there ain’t no one better than Aretha (even when refurbished in the Blues Brothers scene.)

7. Go West, The Village People

Because fun is necessary in all our lives. (As is camp.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zD4kHC8cv3k

8. Stayin’ Alive, The BeeGees

Because every kid needs to know how to strut to this sick beat. (Although Travolta does it better than the actual BeeGees in this video.)

9. Brown-Eyed Girl, Van Morrison

Because life is better with a good tune and a big ol’ smile.

10. We Will Rock You, Queen

Kids will love the beat, the drums, the simple words.

11. Imagine, John Lennon

Because it’s a must-know for a life of love and hope.

12. Satisfaction, The Rolling Stones

Because what do kids understand more profoundly than not getting enough?

13. Copacabana, Barry Manilow

Because story-telling is an art, and songs with a through-line (even a murder), are more interesting. (Also, you’re welcome for this particular old video.)

14. Hotel California, The Eagles

Because sadness is an emotion we all need to embrace for our healthy emotional lives and the minor keys of this song take the listener on quite the journey.

15. Sedated, The Ramones

Because it’ll make you feel cooler than the other parents when your kids know these very simple lyrics.

16. Lean On Me, Bill Withers

Because music teaches your kids to be compassionate instead of assholes.

17. I Feel the Earth Move, Carole King

Because she’s the queen who made queens.

18. A Horse with No Name, America

Because the randomness of these lyrics delights young and old.

19. September, Earth Wind & Fire

Because duh.

20. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, any version – Marvin’s or Diana’s.

Because imagery builds comprehension and every version is doing your kids a favor, here.