Decisions is a series dedicated to the choices we make in our lives and the factors that led us to our given resolutions. We welcome guest posts to this series to hear about how you’ve tackled a life decision. Email your story ideas to email@example.com.
Today, contributor Stephanie Mangino discusses how she’s merged her retro pop culture sensibilities with her daughter’s modern tastes.
Merging our pop culture past and our kid’s present
As my 7-year-old daughter and I walked hand-in-hand the short distance from the parking lot to her summer day camp, we talked about the music we’d just listened to on our car ride.
“You know, those guys I just played for you were friends with the ‘King of Rock’ guys,” I said. She looked at me. “Those earlier guys were RUN-DMC and ‘King of Rock’ was the flip side of the ’Walk This Way’ single.”
FYI, the first “guys” in question were the Beastie Boys. I played “Shake Your Rump” of “Paul’s Boutique,” because the girl is all about butts (in a joking way, not a Tina Belcher of “Bob’s Burgers” way).
The girl gazed up at me, smiling. “Mom, zip it,” she said with a mischievous grin.
“Zip it, lock it, put it in your pocket?” I asked.
“Yep,” she said as we continued walking.
Now, most of the time, I’m not politely asked to “Zip it,” nor is my husband, when we introduce the girl to the stuff from our childhoods that we love. I don’t remember making a specific decision to be fairly retro, in all ways, with the girl. Instead, it seemed to be a natural outgrowth of who we are as people, a couple, and parents. I nursed the girl with “Bonanza,” “Little House on the Prairie,” and “Magnum P.I.,” playing on the Hallmark channel. I had to cut out “Magnum,” though — its sounds seemed to irritate her tiny baby ears, for some reason.
So, our daughter, in 2016, actually has an opinion on whether she prefers “The Munsters” or “The Addams Family” (Munsters, usually), is very familiar with all the characters on “The Andy Griffith Show,” knows that Davy Jones is ALWAYS falling in love on “The Monkees,” can compare a fantasy medieval character on a kid’s show to the “farm boy” in “The Princess Bride,” and sing parts of both “Beat It” and “Eat It,” preferring “Eat It.” She happily wears Labyrinth and Beatles T-shirts and, courtesy of a “Psych” episode, has become a bit of a Tears for Fears fan. She’s seen Witchiepoo from “H.R. Pufnstuf” and “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.” She knows the “WKRP in Cincinnati” theme song and always smiles when Def Leppard comes on a classic rock radio station. I listen to A TON of classic rock in the car. A TON.
Why is all this good? Why does this matter? Well, for me, it matters because I consider this stuff cultural and generational connective tissue. Here’s how I think about it: My mom grew up watching “The Andy Griffith Show.” She quotes lines from it still, like “Nip it in the bud,” or “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never touch me.” I quote those same lines, and she and I laugh whenever we say them. My husband loves them, too. And now, so can my daughter. Her exposure to the show lets her get the joke while sharing something with all of us. We’ve conveyed our collective sense of humor to her with a few lines and a show. With the pop culture memories drawn exclusively from our own childhoods, something similar occurs. However, in this case, our moms remember how much we loved something and then share that info with the kiddo, which makes it impressive. (You know grandparental words carry far more weight than parental ones, yes? They’re so much more trustworthy than those people who remind you to brush your teeth each night.)
When we play the songs we like for her, we hand parts of our past to her in convenient little bundles. Whether or not she likes what she hears or sees, she’ll know we cared enough to share part of who we are with her through music. That goes for movies and books and general stuff, too.
Now, I can be a little pedantic about the things I enjoy, and I’m naturally inclined to lecture, which can turn off the girl sometimes. For example, my excitement and interest in the record player Santa brought means that the turntable is usually turned off. But when I step back and put a song on that I like, or play an old video just because, cool things can happen. One day, I turned on some Duran Duran videos, for the hell of it. To my delight, the girl loved “Rio.” My husband is more relaxed. He’ll turn on the TV and start some old show, without comment. The kid loves TV and eventually she rolls on over, watches and finds something she likes about it. Boom. Instant shared cultural currency.
All that said, we don’t completely live in the past. We listen to new songs, have cut the cable cord and run all our home media via the internet. The kiddo likes Minecraft and iPad games and the Kindle Fire. (She even reads from time to time, too.) She, like many others in the elementary school set, REALLY likes “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).” When our family attended a party recently, the girl and a friend of hers caught lightning bugs and then decamped to her friend’s room to watch “My Little Pony” as the grown-ups listened to The Motels and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on vinyl. She was upstairs making her own childhood memories as we were downstairs reliving some of ours. One day, if we’re lucky, both sets of those memories will meet and the girl will carry her personalized cultural currency to another generation.
Stephanie, a.k.a. Nostalgia Mom (www.nostalgiamom.com), is a former radio, print and web journalist, sometime blogger and full-time marketing writer. She has a history degree and a love of all kinds of old junk. She’s a wife to a husband who also loves old stuff (including her :)) and mother to one awesome kid, who unintentionally lives out Viv Savage’s maxim from “This Is Spinal Tap”: Have a good time, ALL the time.