Sunday, January 24, 2021

Low-Fat Love 101: Listening to Our Kids’ Music

Just a couple of nights ago I took my 12-year-old daughter, Madeline, to a One Direction concert. We bought her the tickets more than half a year ago as a much hoped-for holiday present. Madeline is obsessed with One Direction. No exaggeration; she is absolutely obsessed. Her room is plastered with their posters and filled with items bearing their image, she dons 1D T-shirts almost every day, listens to their music for hours on end, writes fan-fiction that chronicles her fantasies about the band, and routinely tries to engage my husband and I in conversations about thm. Basically, 1D is her hobby.

As you might imagine, I’m far less impressed with this industry-produced boy band. If not for my daughter I would be blissfully unaware that they even exist. So I certainly wasn’t looking forward to attending the concert; however, I was looking forward to seeing Madeline have an experience I knew she would cherish. Despite standing out in the blazing mosquito filled heat amidst crowds of psychotically screaming young girls waving their homemade 1D signs, I had a wonderful time watching my daughter who couldn’t stop smiling, jumping, singing or throwing her arms up in pure bliss. I could see her heart beating out of her chest and I know just what that feels like. I have felt it too.

Any parent knows that we constantly learn from our children. Sometimes it’s difficult to remain open to that learning but it’s so important not just for our parenting but also for our own growth. I give my daughter really hard time without being such a dedicated 1D fan and I make it clear that I don’t enjoy listening to their music. However, after the realizations I had at the concert I will try to work on this.

The reason that Madeline is constantly trying to talk to my husband and I about this band, including explaining to us what the different songs are about, is because she is trying to get us to understand her; who she is. When there is music that means so much to you that it helps you through the difficult times in your life, it becomes a part of your identity. You do not simply listen to this music, you carry it with you. Therefore, her desire for us to know this music is really a desire for us to know her in a meaningful way. I understand. For years, I tried to get my parents to listen to the music that meant so much to me. My favorite artist is Tori Amos and on many occasions I tried to explain to my parents the importance of her music in my life. They simply weren’t interested. I have parents that I have always felt don’t really know or understand me which as you can imagine has been quite painful at times. Obviously I hope to have more with my own daughter and so I know that I have to respect what this music means to her and why she needs it in her life. I have to try and understand.

Ironically, this is a lesson I have learned in part from my own musical inspiration. A couple of years ago Madeline and I were privileged to spend some time backstage with Tori Amos after a concert. Tori has a daughter exactly the same age as Madeline. As we spoke, Madeline said, “I want to thank you for everything your music means to my mom.” Tori smiled at me and shortly after said, “You know we have to listen to their music too.” I smiled because I think she knows as well as anyone could how an artist’s music can become a part of someone’s identity, what it can come to mean to them, and how we can know them more deeply when we understand that. Plus, while 1D may not be my thing, I know Tori would agree that it’s wonderful to be exposed to new things.

Patricia’s new novel, American Circumstance, with references to Tori Amos, is available now.


5 Responses to “Low-Fat Love 101: Listening to Our Kids’ Music”
  1. This is such a revelation. Wow! And by the way, how awesome that you got to be backstage of Tori’s concert. I’d die if that happened to me with Dave Matthews Band or Natalie Merchant.

    I gotta say that I have mixed feelings about this. My parents did listen to the music I listened to, and they liked some of the tunes, but that didn’t happen with other things. I always told them (subtly) about my interests, and instead of encouraging me, they tried to change my mind, saying that that wasn’t appropriate or good.

    Today I’m millions of miles away from them, trying to make it on my own, when I could’ve started 10 years ago. A very important lesson for parents. Thank you for this Patricia.

    • Patricia Leavy says:

      Thank you so much for your note. Our lives are all a process. I too have had to create serious distances with relatives, and in some cases wish I had done it earlier. It’s never too late to get where we need to go and I wish you great luck. Thanks for the supportive message!

  2. Erica says:

    This is lovely! Thank you for the reminder. I had parents who didn’t understand my musical tastes either, and it makes sense that I was probably saying, “understand me!” I can also apply this to lots of things my kids are into that I’m not – video games, TV shows, etc. My disinterest might be interpreted as not caring about them.

    • Patricia Leavy says:

      Thank you so much, Erica. I’m so glad it was helpful. I believe that I have shown my daughter disinterest in her music in the past and that I have sent her the wrong message. Kids can interpret things so differently than we mean them. Thanks for your note!

  3. This is so lovely. I am always learning from my students and I am proud to say that. It makes me feel blessed to be surrounded by so many beautiful children all the time. Reading about the relationship that you and Madeline share, is so heartening.

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