Messed-Up Kids’ Songs

by Samantha on September 20, 2014

A peek behind the curtain of classic children's songs shows a surprisingly darker side

baby singing

One of my sons’ favourite songs is “You Are My Sunshine.”

It’s a classic – a perennial favourite amongst parents everywhere. Perhaps it’s the metaphorical comparison between lightness and the object of the singer’s affection (You are my sunshine). Perhaps it’s the seemingly positive message of hope offered in the chorus:

You make me happy when skies are grey.”

And what child doesn’t want to hear this proclamation of absolute adoration, almost desperate in its pronouncement:

You’ll never know dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.”

Every child wants to hear that. A mother or father declaring their absolute love for their offspring – it’s a child’s dream, isn’t it?

Yet when we actually look at the full lyrics of this popular song, things aren’t as rosy as they seem. Check out the full lyrics here:

CHORUS:

You Are My Sunshine
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away

The other night, dear,
As I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
And I hung my head and cried.

REPEAT CHORUS

I’ll always love you
And make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me
To love another
You’ll regret it all some day;

REPEAT CHORUS

You told me once dear
You really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you’ve left me
And love another
You have shattered all my dreams

REPEAT CHORUS

Louisiana my Louisiana
The place where I was born
White fields of cotton
Green fields of clover
The best fishing and long tall corn

REPEAT CHORUS

Hmmm…

Sounds like the tune is a spiteful ode to a possible cheater, with overtones of threats (“If you leave me to love another, you’ll regret it all someday”). Let’s also not discount the apparently unequivocal callousness of the person about whom the song is intended, as evidenced by this beauty of a verse:

“You told me once dear, you really loved me, that no one else could come between, but now you’ve left me and love another, you have shattered all my dreams.”

Doesn’t sound very happy to me…

Yet we sing the song unwittingly to our kids, often. At least I do. And I know I’m not alone.

Funny, when we dig just a little bit deeper in to many kids’ songs, we find out information that may not fit in with our ideas about what’s appropriate to share with our children…or not. “You Are My Sunshine” is a classic and sung numerous times daily, around the world. But how closely do we listen to the words that we blithely recite to our kids? Is it the fact that because these words are accompanied by a sweet tune, this fact alone may somehow negate the clearly unfavourable message that is being told?

You Are My Sunshine” is not the only seemingly innocuous song that has a darker side. Witness this classic – “Clementine” – which is about every parent’s worst fear: drowning.

In a cavern, in a canyon,
Excavating for a mine,
Lived a miner, forty-niner
And his daughter Clementine

CHORUS:

Oh my Darling, Oh my Darling,
Oh my Darling Clementine.
You are lost and gone forever,
Dreadful sorry, Clementine.

Light she was and like a fairy,
And her shoes were number nine
Herring boxes without topses
Sandals weren’t for Clementine.

REPEAT CHORUS

Drove she ducklings to the water
Every morning just at nine,
Hit her foot against a splinter
Fell into the foaming brine.

REPEAT CHORUS

Ruby lips above the water,
Blowing bubbles soft and fine,
But alas, I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.

REPEAT CHORUS

How I missed her! How I missed her!
How I missed my Clementine,
Till I kissed her little sister,
And forgot my Clementine.

REPEAT CHORUS

Then the miner, forty-niner,
Soon began to peak and pine,
Thought he oughter join his daughter,
Now he’s with his Clementine.

Again – some questionable content.

So distraught is the author of this song about losing his beloved Clementine, that he promptly took solace in the arms of the dead girl’s little sister, which apparently made everything better.

Nice.

Now let’s move on to another classic children’s ditty – “Rock-a-Bye Baby.”

Rock-a-bye baby
On the tree top,
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall,
And down will fall baby
Cradle and all.

Am I the only one wondering who on earth puts their baby in a cradle on a treetop? The situation is precarious at best, tragic at worst and yes – of course – the bough will surely break in the event of a strong wind or two.
Neglectful parenting, child endangerment and possibly the charge of premeditated you-know-what is very real in this scenario. Yet we sing it to our kids without batting an eye.

What gives?

I’m not completely sure but here’s an idea:
Perhaps we’re so caught up in singing to our kids, trying to calm or soothe them, or entertain them for a moment that we can’t see the forest for the trees. These and many other songs (hello, “Ring-Around-The-Rosy“, about the bubonic plague) – so many of them – have been ingrained into our consciousness for as long as we can remember and we sing them without batting an eye.

We pride ourselves on being loving and forgiving to our children yet these words don’t sound like either:
But if you leave me
To love another
You’ll regret it all some day;

Threatening and ominous for sure – not the type of message that we usually want to send to our kids.

Now, granted – many of us don’t follow through to sing each and every verse to our children when we’re trying to soothe them or put them to sleep. For the most part, much of our singing includes repetition of the main chorus without much thought or time given to the more disturbing other verses. But do we not owe it to our kids – and ourselves – to at least know the full story and the intended background of these songs? Is it okay to blindly sing these tunes to our kids, relinquishing all responsibility for these songs’ content due to our willful ignorance?

I likely won’t stop singing “You Are My Sunshine” to my son but may shudder a bit inside every time I do so, now that the real intention behind the song is known. Ditto for “Clementine.” And “Rock-A-Bye Baby?” I’ve never been in support of ditching babies in trees…but that’s just me.

What do you think? Are these songs harmless or should parents play closer attention to the lyrics and intentions of popular children’s songs? Do you sing these songs to your kids? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

VIDEO: You Are My Sunshine

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CBC Radio Interview: Kids and Email

by Samantha on September 4, 2014

Should parents allow their children to have email and online accounts?

Gmail Does your child have an email account? Why or why not?

This is a question that I addressed on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning program about kids and online access. Following a discussion on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning show on a similar topic, I delved more deeply into the questions that all parents face about when they should allow their kids online access.

cbc_radio_logo

 

Some topics discussed:

  • Should kids under 13 have an email account and online access?
  • How young is too young to be online?
  • How has parenting a child in the digital age changed from raising a child before the Internet was the norm?

As digital technology becomes the norm both at home and at school, kids are increasingly expected to have some type of access, whether it be via email or otherwise. This reality raises a number of issues and concerns for parents who worry about the safety of their kids as they venture online.

Is it okay to let a child under the age of 13 have an email account or online access? What are some of the considerations that parents should make before allowing their children online? These are just some of the questions that need to be addressed by all of us who are raising our kids in the digital age.

To listen to the full interview, click here:

What are your thoughts? Do your children have email accounts? Why or why not? How much online access do you allow your kids? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Family Adventures With Netflix

by Samantha on August 28, 2014

Some adventurous titles to watch with the family

Summertime means many things to many people. To kids – mine, in particular – it’s a time to both chill out and relax as well as to engage in some adventurous activity.

Now – keep in mind that my boys are small and my middle daughter is not yet a teen, so the word “adventure” is relative.

Our yearly summer plans include much down time for the kids as well as pre-planned activities such as summer camps, daycare and, of course, our family vacation.

For the past few years, we’ve visited the Eastern Townships in Quebec, staying at a friend’s cottage, far away from the urban, downtown life that we live for most of the year.

Instead of listening to horns honking and streetcars dinging as they make their way past my street, we instead choose to wake up to relative silence, but for the calls of a lone loon or two and perhaps some gentle rolling of waves on the nearest lake.

Here’s an early morning view of sunrise during our cottage visit. Yes – it’s as tranquil as it appears.

cottage sunrise

During the days, we hung out and did a mixture of “doing nothing” as well as some more adventurous activities. These included boating, fishing, hiking and general fun and games. The point was to spend time together and pique the kids’ interest in all things outdoorsy. Being in nature definitely brought out the adventurous side of the kids as we hiked, fished and went out on the boat:

IMG_4046 IMG_4170 IMG_4220 IMG_4266

In the evenings, we relaxed and admittedly took to the tube to queue up a movie or two on Netflix. My kids love the variety of programs that they can choose from, and I love that we can sit down together as a family and watch a program that we can all enjoy. Some adventurous titles that were on the agenda included:

Adventures-Of-Tintin_US_571x800

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Some other titles now available on Netflix include:

For the big kids:

  1. The Adventures of Tintin
  2. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
  3. Tad: The Lost Explorer
  4. The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure
  5. National Treasure
  6.  Labou and the Quest for the Lost Treasure

For the little ones:

  1. Dora The Explorer
  2. Wild Animal Baby Explorers
  3. Tree Fu Tom
  4. Rubbadubbers: Tubb’s Pirate Treasure
  5. A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures
  6. The Hive

How did your family experience adventure this summer? What are your favourite adventure movies and shows to watch with the kids? Tell me about it in the comments section below!

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Top 5 Tips to Help You Send Your Child Off to School For the First Time

first day of school

For parents whose kids are entering Kindergarten for the first time, the stakes are high. Not necessarily for the child but oftentimes more so for the parents. Having been home with their son or daughter for a number of years makes the prospect of sending them off to school particularly anxiety-inducing. Though their kids may have gone to selected preschool classes, play groups or similar social situations, Kindergarten signifies “the big leagues.”

For first-time parents, there is often anxiety, fear and stress felt by the prospect being away from their child and relinquishing responsibility to someone other than themselves. The unknown – in this case a classroom, other kids and a new teacher – can feel particularly daunting.

I’ve written about the first day of school before from the perspective of the child but realize that oftentimes, it’s the parents who need some support and encouragement. Below are some simple tips for those who are facing the prospect of sending their child or children off to school for the first time.

Sending Your Child to School For the First Time – Top 5 Tips For Parents

1) Your Kids Will Be Fine - Kids are a lot more resilient than we think. Surprisingly, they often step up to the challenge and thrive when they’re beyond the protective gaze of their parents. Have faith in both your child and the teachers who understand the anxiety felt by both parents and children. They’ve been there before, and know how to support your child in feeling comfortable, safe and ultimately excited about being in school. By the end of the day, they’ll have stories to tell, artwork to show you and introductions to their new friends (to you!) to make.

2) Tears Are Normal – Yes, they may flow at the prospect of leaving you. Take that as a given. Also realize that the tears will stop as soon as your child enters the classroom and sees the whole new world that is opened up to them at school. Art, reading, writing and toys await and you will be but a distant memory (in a good way of course) while your child ventures into the (relatively) grown-up world of Kindergarten.

3) A Blankie or Teddy Goes a Long Way – Yes, you’ve been your child’s security blanket for so long but when they start school, they’ll need something to keep them going during the day. Don’t underestimate the importance of your child having their favourite special item, whether it’s a blanket, sleep toy or doll. Having such an item with them during their first venture into the school environment will make their day so much easier.

4) Independence is a Good Thing – This is a first step for your child towards independence. And while it may be a difficult one for both of you, it’s an important and positive milestone in their life. Being able to separate from their parents is key to gaining a strong sense of ability as well as self-confidence. And as much as it may be difficult to push them out of the proverbial nest, it’s ultimately in their best interest. Today, Kindergarten, tomorrow – the world!

5) Get Educated – Fear of the unknown often adds to our stress and anxiety and sending our kids off into “The Great Unknown” – in this case, school – is no different. Assuage your fears about the first day of school through your own education of what will occur. Just as your child will be learning in the classroom, you too can learn everything you need to know about your child’s curriculum before they begin the formal learning process. Where possible, contact the school, meet and/or speak with your child’s new teacher(s) and familiarize yourself with the class schedule. You’l feel better and more confident about your child’s new adventure once you have all of your questions answered.

Are you feeling stressed about sending your child to school for the first time? Or, do you have any additional tips that can make the transition smoother? Tell me about them in the comments section below.

 Image courtesy of www.chfi.com

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At what age is it okay for kids to have an email and social media accounts?

girl on laptop

Does your child have an email address? How about a Facebook account? How do you feel about your child being online at all?

Those were some of the questions posed in an interview that I did with CBC Metro Morning.

CBC Radio Metro Morning

As a parent raising kids in a digital age, as well as someone who is both a lover and avid user of social media, digital technology and online communications, the questions gave me pause.

For many, the thought of allowing their children online presents a conundrum, a Pandora’s Box of sorts. While there are many benefits to having access to the online world (can we say “Google?”), there are some real risks as well. This is particularly the case for those who are younger and more impressionable.

Parents worry about a lot of things when they consider their children’s potential online activities not the least of which include:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Exposure to inappropriate images, videos, information (pornography, violence, etc.)
  • Online stalking
  • Phishing and related scams

Yet, there’s no denying that digital communications is the standard these days. Try to get around finding information without some type of online element; I suspect it would be quite the task.

I allow my ten-year-old daughter to have an email account for a number of reasons, the least of which is that  she can communicate with her close family members (grandparents, aunts, uncles) and teachers – yes, teachers. It is quite the standard these days that teachers email information to both parents and students about school assignments, homework and activities. Implicit in these actions is the expectation that the child will have an email account and that the parents are in approval, and my daughter is no exception. For the most part, her peers have email accounts as well, with the full support of their parents.

That being said, there are some best practices that parents should follow when allowing their children online, whether it’s just for email purposes, or more. I talk about these, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), in the interview.

Here’s the full interview, below (first link is to Metro Morning’s website, second is to the segment via CBC Player).

What are your thoughts? At what age is it okay for kids to be online? Is email for a child under 13 okay? Why or why not? How about Facebook? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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