Raising Richmond: A matter of records

Building a record collection for a child isn’t as important as starting a college fund or setting examples of good behavior, but–OK, just kidding. It’s as important.

Most of my husband’s and my belongings have been combined for about as long as we’ve been together, however our Ikea Expedit shelf that holds our vinyl is still strictly a his and hers deal, presumably because my cheap records are just not good enough to touch his better-preserved LPs. Or maybe because we mostly don’t take from each other’s collections when we listen to records, so not having my Elvis Costello crammed in with his Roy Ayers or Rainbow albums makes it easier to find what we each want to hear. Now there is a third clump of records kept separate from ours that belongs to our daughter.

Before our child was born, my husband and I were on the same page about children’s music. That page read “What? No. Our kid will listen to real music.” Our generation learned through younger siblings, from babysitting, or from that “Baby Beluga” episode of Full House that children’s music is to be avoided.

As our daughter got older and developed interests that extended beyond what we cultivated for her, we did end up getting her kid’s music,1 like a Fresh Beat Band collection, the soundtrack to Annie, and They Might Be Giants (though she likes all TMBG, not just the children’s albums). When she took a shining to Peanuts comics and watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, we bought her the soundtrack to that, but this one on vinyl. That and her John Denver and the Muppets’ A Christmas Together LP gets a lot of (year-round) spins.

One of my favorite albums from her collection is Carole King’s Really Rosie soundtrack. I remembered the TV special when I was a kid, and thought that my daughter would like it because she likes the Maurice Sendak books the stories come from. The CD was out of print, so a friend gave me his LP of Really Rosie that belonged to his now-grown son, and it’s probably been her most-played (non-Christmas, anyway) record. It’s a family favorite.

I try to subtly push the music I love onto my child, and sometimes it takes (Janelle Monae, Weezer, The Monkees) and sometimes it doesn’t (Oasis). My husband listens to different music than I do and has the same success rate with getting her to like anything. She also has different relationships to music with both of her parents. She knows which songs to request from either of us in our cars. She and her dad have a more eclectic soundtrack for their drive home from daycare (lots of heavy metal), but since I have a broken CD player and have been stuck with just the radio since last December, we mostly scan terrible radio until we find something good. She once had a tantrum because I couldn’t find Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” on the radio (which she still sings as “I feel like I’m a wrecking bone”).

When we ask her to pick out a record, it’s usually something from her stack. Sometimes she requests “heavy metal” from her dad’s collection. Or “nothing, just nothing.” Lately she’s into “girl music” and only likes female vocalists. When one side of a record is over she will ask us to “flip the record.” We have to teach her not to dance too close to the speakers or the record might scratch. She came home from daycare last week singing “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”, and I found that on YouTube for her to watch, which directed her to the Archies, then to about 20 minutes of a Spanish-language nursery rhyme channel. And what’s her favorite song after all that exposure? “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.”2 I haven’t asked her what her least favorite is, but because three-year-olds are complicated I’m sure it’s “Baa Baa Black Sheep.”

She has a CD collection. Both of us have a few albums for her on our iPods. But her record collection has more significance than the other formats because, barring something that will warp/destroy those records, she will have them for a while. I have records that my parents had when they were teenagers. Maybe my daughter will end up with those, too. And that’s special. They’re in terrible shape, but it’s still special.3

I worked at a music store for seven years, and my interest in wanting all the music plus my employee discount has left me with boxes of now unloved CDs. Having a CD is basically like having a piece of trash with music inside of it. When I buy music now, it’s either digital or vinyl. If she starts to want more music then I will gently nudge her to the same digital or vinyl grounds to take up less or at least better space.

I look forward to see what music she ends up being into and how she builds on that musical foundation we laid out for her. We’ll even be OK if she doesn’t end up loving our favorite bands. Probably.

  1. Laurie Berkner Band is the type of music that people probably think of when they think about kid’s music. It got into our child’s collection somehow, and I immediately thought it was terrible and it embarrassed me to listen to it. I like it OK now. It’s cute, pretty, and goofy, the kids love it, and we never have to buy anything like it again. 
  2. If only the Beatles had written “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” so that Oasis could have covered it. She’d be an instant Oasis fan. 
  3. My parents’ old records mostly include The Beatles and Chicago, plus The Chipmunks Christmas Vol. 2, which was a favorite of mine when I was a kid. 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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