Before I had a child of my own, I was unaware of most music/fads/TV shows/cereal etc. for kids. And when I got pregnant, I remember telling my husband, "We're only letting her listen to classical music, for brain development. And NO TV EVER." Sigh. So naive.
I've since been indoctrinated, harshly on some occasions, into the world of "ENTERTAINMENT FOR KIDS."
Since many of my friends either do not have children yet, or are firmly in the ZPG/childfree camp, I thought I'd take this post to show you something you're blissfully ignorant about. It will horrify and astound, and make you check your watch to make sure you're popping that pill at exactly the same time EVERY SINGLE DAY. This, my friends, is the "Music for Kids Annoyometer." Think of it like the terror threat level indicator- use this handy guide to gauge how concerned you should be for your sanity when in the presence of children's music. And much like with the Bomb, hiding under a school desk ain't gonna save ya.
Now, not all music for kids is bad. In fact some of it I listen to even if Pookie is not with me and I would gladly recommend it to all. Another thing to note is that you don't have to be held hostage by children's music when in the presence of children. Usually anything with a catchy beat will suffice; Pookie's very favorite band in the whole world (today) is Great Big Sea.
The scale is rated from green to red, and is not all-inclusive. If a group is only on TV, it's likely we're not familiar with it.
Green: You'd listen to this in your car, even if you had the windows down and a hot gal or guy pulled up beside you. This list is short, but important, because these will sustain you through long road trips and times of thick snow and ice where you can't leave the house for a week (aka: oh my god what are we going to do stuck in this house for a week it will end up like in The Shining I just know it where is that axe allworkandnoplaymakejackadullboyallworkandnoplaymakejackadullboy.)
Barenaked Ladies, Snacktime - This is a great CD, and truthfully it isn't all that different from regular BNL music. Catchy tunes, switchbacking lyrics, lots of trivia about all things Canadian, puns. And for me, no less than two Rush references (one is even a Geddy Lee cameo. Evidently he prefers BBQ potato chips).
It's entertaining and educational, and helped Pooks impress the doctor by pointing out her philtrum. As a plus, there are some cute videos to accompany some of the the songs (I wish there were more) on Youtube. My favorite is "Pollywog in a Bog."
They Might Be Giants, Here Come the ABCs & Here Come the 123s - If you like TMBG, you'll love these, and add them to your collection even if you have no intention of ever having, being around, or even looking at a kid. There are 2 CDs and 2 DVDs (note: be careful when purchasing, I accidentally bought the CD without the DVD and we're stuck watching the videos on Youtube because now I'm pissed and don't want to buy the whole shebang again just for the DVD).
My current favorites are "Triops Has 3 Eyes" and "High 5." Pookie's favorite is "One Dozen Monkeys."
Yellow: These songs/clips are mostly still okay. You can stomach them a few times a day, some of them are pretty catchy and fun. But there is a point of "OK, that's enough of that."
Sesame Street. I grew up with Sesame Street, so I can take quite a bit of it, especially if it's the older, more "classic" stuff like "C is for Cookie" or that Pointer Sisters cartoon about counting to 12.
But kids these days don't want the classics as much. They want Elmo. Through great marketing or complete chance, it is a rare child who can't count "Elmo" among their first words. Pooks has never seen an episode of Sesame Street, ever, and she adores "Uhhmo," to the point that we took her to Sesame Street Live, and it was perhaps the greatest hour and a half of her young life.
Because it's flown beneath the radar of most non-child-having types, I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't include a link here to the strangest of the Elmo sketches. So many questions ... Is it funny? Is it creepy? Is it both? Doesn't Elmo's dad seem awfully old to have such a young monster? Is "heiney" an acceptable word for Sesame Street? What is Elmo eating that necessitates air freshener?
Raffi: Come on, he sang Baby Beluga! What's not to love? Ok, honestly, some of his new stuff is a little preachy for my taste, but it's still solid.
Orange: Catchy, but grating. Sometimes you might wake up in the night humming one of these songs, and wonder if inserting an ice pick into your brain with force might stop you from thinking of it ever again. May I present:
The Wiggles- You may be completely unaware of the existence of these vibrant, singing Australian dudes, but on the child entertainment circuit, they are kings, titans, GODS. And the dubya-tee-eff factor is just through the roof. I dare you to watch the head-bobbing Big Red Car or the semi-Berkely-syle Medley, and not come away scratching your head.
Four guys, dressed in rainbow-hued shirts, living in one house and driving around in a convertible while singing and dancing? As one of my gay friends put it, "Gaaaaaaaaay." (He sort of sang it, really.)
But the thing is that gay or straight, mostly the whole thing is just strange. I finally came to the conclusion that the qualifications for "what is bizarre" must be different in Australia.
And what do I know? These guys are the KISS of kinder-rock, the hottest band in the world (and the hottest potato). Kids love them, and my kid is no exception. I regularly sing her to sleep with Rock-a-bye Your Bear. Although if she's trying to stay up, she'll start singing Quack Quack. (I also admit that when singing Wiggles tunes, I use an Australian accent ... "Let's ohl quehk togethah!")
I've now watched these little videos on Youtube so much that I've decided that Yellow is the leader, Blue gets all the backstage single-mother tail (or single father, NTTAWTT), Red holds the dubious distinction of being the "dorkiest," and the narcoleptic Purple asian guy is there for diversity and comic relief. He's the Long Duck Dong of the Wiggles, except instead of getting drunk and passing out amusingly, he just falls asleep and snores amusingly.
(Note: there is a television show for these guys as well, but I've never seen it. Two-minute long snippets online are about all I can handle.)
Red: There is a law of proportionality at work here. I'm no math whiz, but I'll try to explain. Plot "How much something annoys me" on the Y-axis, and plot "How much my progeny is obsessed with said thing" on the X-axis. At the furthest point up and to the right you can go lives the RED. You can rip your ears off while screaming like a banshee, but it won't stop these ditties from tingling ad nauseum in your head, clanging around like pinballs on the inside of your cranium all night long and into the misty morning hours.
It started innocently enough. At school Pookie learned "The Wheels on the Bus." She learned all the little moves and we obliged her by singing at home. It was cute. That was in August. At some point we googled "Wheels on the Bus" and found some videos on Youtube. They were slightly annoying, but they brought her such joy. Then came the DVD that accompanied the Youtube clips. Then another. Then another. Suddenly we were at the mercy of a monster who demanded "BUS!" every waking moment. She learned how to turn on the TV and the DVD player (she was 18 months old!) Merely hinting at not watching the Bus sent her into horrible tantrums, spasms of fury.
Months later, we are just now emerging from the rubble, but it has been a long road, and the healing has just begun. We are but shells, empty husks, of our former, pre-Bus DVD selves.
If you dare, here is the Bus. It stars Roger Daltrey (yes, that Roger Daltrey) as a giant dragon who drives a bus all around the town and has wacky madcap lame adventures with a toucan and a monkey, all set to different verses of "The Wheels on the Bus." There are three of these DVDs.
Watch if you dare, but remember: when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.