September 2014

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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Image courtesy of http://get-your-baby-to-sleep.com

Learning With Netflix

by Samantha on September 15, 2014

Family entertainment can be used as a learning tool

DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies currently showing on Netflix. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own. 

The kids are back to school and hopefully, they’ve have settled into a routine by now, at least to some degree. Sure, there are bumps along the way (sorry teacher, the forms are not signed on time) but the day-to-day craziness of getting kids off to school, then managing the evening whirl of dinner, baths, homework and bed has hopefully become somewhat manageable (somewhat?).

And speaking of homework, it’s likely part and parcel of the evening mix. I know it is in my family - heck - even my twins who are in Senior Kindergarten have work to do. With all of the kids, learning is a priority in our household and we try to support any opportunity to teach them lessons that they can use in life.

One thing I’ve realized is that oftentimes, learning doesn’t need to take a traditional form. There are many ways of teaching kids lessons without having them

a) Whine about having to do homework or

b) Roll their eyes when you suggest yet another round of spelling/math/writing/[insert subject here]

Sometimes, learning can occur under the guise of relaxing, which suits this lazy mom just fine 😉

Cue up Netflix and the kids are primed. They think that they’re getting some “fun time” and “entertainment” - which they are - but little do they know that they’re also learning as well. There’s a method to this parenting madness after all!

For my little guys, there are some great shows where they can both learn and be entertained.

The Lorax is a favourite and my boys have watched it repeatedly. Lots of good lessons in this one, beyond the obvious ones. And the colourful landscapes and lively characters keep the kids engaged as well.

lorax

For younger kids just learning to read, Super Why is another fave. My boys love the superhero aspect of the show and willingly make attempts to spell and read - just like the main character.

Super Why pic

Sometimes we just want to chill out and watch the tube as a family and during those times, it’s important to find a movie or show that the kids of all ages can enjoy. For family movie night entertainment a couple of good bets are The Pursuit of Happyness as well as The Karate Kid. Both have some great life lessons that can be uses as discussion points for the kids as well.

Sneaky mom - I take it as an opportunity to let them learn while watching tv. Smart, huh?

The Pursuit of Happyness

 

Karate Kid

Sometimes learning takes on different forms and it doesn’t always have to be through the conventional means such as reading, writing and studying. By choosing an educational program that the kids will enjoy, you’ll kill two birds with one stone: your kids will be engaged and entertained and they’ll learn something new. Sounds like a “win-win” situation to me!

What are your favourite educational Netflix shows to watch with the kids? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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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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