I know there are a million things that need a lot of explaining. Clouds, bugs, law of conservation of matter, cooking, math. I know this. What I did not anticipate was having to explain to my son what jail is.
Here is how we got there: As a lesbian, I have no choice but to sing Indigo Girls songs to my son. The specific songs have ebbed and flowed over time, but when I am tired, I can easily got back to that time in my life (you know, shaved-head-not-armpits, baggy jeans, freedom rings around my neck) and the lyrics just come to me. Recently, I started singing Hammer and A Nail. I thought it was a lovely choice as it talk about being a responsible global citizen and fully participating in life. Then he started to take-apart the chorus:
Gotta get out of bed get a hammer and a nail
Learn how to use my hands, not just my head
I think myself into jail.
…and there it was. You see, M has a way, like most toddlers, of asking the same questions over and over and over again and picking up on things you really wish could be overlooked. Now, every time after requesting Hammer and Nail, he asks what jail is. At first, I just told him it is somewhere I hope he never goes. But that wasn’t enough. So, I settled on this: Jail is a place where adults go who need a really big time-out. He got it immediately. Now, he still asks every time I sing the song, but now I have a stock response that has almost become part of our lyrics.
It is because of his new awareness of and curiosity about lyrics and specific words that S and I have decided to not let M listen to pop radio. We are now iPod only. I have become so discouraged that most songs on the radio promote rape culture, over indulgence in drugs and alcohol, degrade women, hyper masculinity, etc. The eighteen-year old me would die of embarrassment that I just wrote that, but I have come a long way since then. I don’t plan to shelter my son always, but for now, I am happy to explain when he asks me, “What is a nomad? What is an Indian? What is a saint?” That feels better than, “Mama? Why does he keep saying ‘you can blow my whistle baby’?”