This past weekend, serendipitously, I watched a swimming pool full of children between the ages of four and twelve sing and splash to LMFAO‘s I’m Sexy and I Know It. As the opening notes sounded, a rush of kids emerged from underneath towels and off of chaises lounges; into the pool they went, where for three minutes, they danced and carried on like the kids they were, completely oblivious to the underlying meaning of of the lyrics of that song. Half the adults in the pool were singing along, too. Say what you will about the artistic merit of the song, you can’t deny that it’s catchy. It puts you in a good mood. It makes you not-at-all sorry for party rocking, and that’s the whole point of that type of music. It’s fun.
I bet if you asked the average seven-year old what that song is about, they’d tell you: it’s about having a party. It’s about looking good. My seven-year old certainly could care less about the lyrics beyond those which are readily discernible on a quick listen to the chorus (he might mention that it’s about shaking his bum, but he’s seven and anything to do with bums is REALLY funny). My older one could probably tell you what some of the other lines in the song mean, but we’ve already discussed how babies are made and that – gasp – grown-ups do “it”. Of course, you’d have to get him to stop dancing in order to ask him a question about the song in the first place.
Still, it’s probably no surprise to him or to his friends that there are references “it” in songs. Grown ups talk about a lot of things that kids don’t talk about, which doesn’t mean that kids don’t listen: it just means that it doesn’t matter to them to hear it. The economy. Politics. Stocks. What to make for dinner. Paying bills. These are all topics which register with most kids as “things that grown ups say” and not “things I must understand RIGHT now”. And when they do tune in, you do the best that you can with whatever questions that come your way about what they’ve heard, as it doesn’t really matter what the source of the question is: as parents, we can’t completely insulate our children from the world, nor should we. Instead, I’d rather teach them to live within it, and give them the right information to be able to do so.