I play a lot of music in my house. I loathe silence. It’s both a character flaw and a persistent joy.
Since I’m home most days with the kids that equals a lot of time listening. That equals a lot of time exposing my children to the music I love, but also the music I hope they’ll eventually come to love as well. I hooked my elder daughter on The Cars, The Knack and Huey Lewis when she was 2. My wife introduced her to Adele and Foster the People’s first record (we don’t speak of that second one). She’s since expanded her playlist. I’m pretty sure, however, she could listen to Hall & Oates’ “Maneater” for 24 consecutive hours. The point is that my children listen almost entirely to the music that we curate for them. We don’t listen to modern Top 40, some exceptions apply. For example, my mom recently brought over a Radio Disney CD for them. I’m still trying to explain how a compact disc can also be a “radio” and why I can’t just play “Radio Disney” in the car or on my record player. I’d just succeeded in explaining the concept of the “radio” and now this comes along and throws wrench into the whole concept.
But now about my youngest. My 2yo (almost 3) has never shown the same affection for music or individual songs. She’s starting to identify specific music, but discrimination has never been her strongest trait. She learned how to operate the Hello Kitty CD player and spins tracks like a furious little DJ strung out on adrenaline (maybe cocaine, knowing her tendency to do that most dangerous activities imaginable). She swaps CDs without finishing more than 30 seconds of a song and bounces uncontrollably between swaps. I don’t know how she can hear anything other than the reverberations of her own brain. It’s like a squash court in there. She too has taken a liking to “the Radio Disney.” Or at least the first track. I accidentally let 90’s on 9 provide the soundtrack to a recent car ride. Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5” came on — the first track on that Radio Disney CD, albeit rewritten to refer to happy fun times with Disney characters instead of one-night stands with lady friends. She squeals. “the Radio Disney!’ I shake my head and thank the maker that I’d arrived at my destination before needing to explain the lyrical differences.
Now to the point of my story. I know… too much back story. You can deal with it.
I put on Toad the Wet Sprocket’s live album Welcome Home: Live at the Arlington Theater 1992. You may or may not know this, but I’m a die-hard Toad fan. I consider their 1994 record, Dulcinea, a desert-island essential. I’m that kind of crazy-serious about Toad. I don’t joke about Toad, goddammit.
I’m singing along to every damn word of that album and my 2yo comes bounding up to me, kinda dancing, kinda pretending to sing. My cockles warm like the Grinch’s tiny frozen heart. Have I raised a child that loves Toad the Wet Sprocket? I imagine all the concerts we’ll attend. Don’t stop touring, Toad! Don’t break up again, Toad! I’ve got a child to mold and treat to your underappreciated sonic gifts to the world!
Right about now I’m holding her in my arms and we’re bouncing around the living room to Toad’s kinda-sorta breakout MTV hit “Fall Down.”
And then she says to me, as plain and coherent as the day is long, “This sounds like Paw Patrol.”
Has anyone ever gone from elation to totally fucking crestfallen in a shorter amount of time than I did in that moment? In case you don’t know about Paw Patrol, it’s this kid’s show about a squad of community service dogs, each with their own specialties and a tricked-out vehicles. And they don’t f’ing form like Voltron. It’s dogs and trucks. That’s pretty much it. They solve problems like finding the mayor’s lost chicken. When I watch any amount of this show, my brain goes blank in the name of self-preservation. They watch this show at my parents’ house. I can’t complain. Paw Patrol means a night out for my wife and I. A necessary intelligence-sucking evil that maintains parental sanity. But now… BUT NOW… my 2yo just compared my beloved Toad the Wet Sprocket with the Paw Patrol theme song.
Toad the Wet Sprocket – “Fall Down”
Paw Patrol theme song
For now I will bide my time until she’s capable of understanding the depth with which this cuts. Then I will tell her. I might even make her apologize. Listen to three “Windmills” and atone for his past sins.
Sigh. But I won’t. Not really.
Even then in the moment of supreme shock and dismay, Toad being compared to Paw Patrol… I laughed and kissed her on the forehead. I’ve told the story to at least ten people with put-on dismay, because that is what’s expected of someone who takes music seriously. But even when these damn kids cause painful, brute-force self-inflicted facepalms, they’re still our most favorite people on the planet. They also have a way of putting our own tendencies toward wildly superficial histrionics in perfect perspective.