I SPEAK KID
By ELAINE DONG
On the heels of singer diva Whitney Houston’s death, I find it sad that my kids will never be able to see her sing in person.
But then, we live in Malaysia. The chances of Whitney coming here for a concert these days would not be that great anyway. Her dance moves might be deemed too suggestive and her dressing risqué. Because middle-aged female pop stars have a reputation for that.
But I am happy that her music lives on. Her beauty is forever immortalised in her music videos. How could a child not fall in love with Whitney when they hear her sing I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)? On Sunday, when CNN et al were paying tribute to Ms Houston, my kids watched her sing and dance her soul out in the glorious 1980s.
Of course, I realise that though music transcends time and age, Whitney’s music belongs to my generation. My kids will probably think of it as the music that Mum listens to. “Yeah, it’s nice, Mum. People from your time rock!” Well, they don’t call it the generation gap for nothing.
But it’s okay. I love John Lennon, and the people who sang Lemon Tree (I Googled and found out it was performed by several singers/bands but the version I know is by Peter, Paul and Mary) and the crazy trio also sang Puff The Magic Dragon (this I knew without Googling). I love all music from the 1960s and 70s. My father’s music. Because that was all we listened to in the car growing up.
Now I find myself browsing the oldies section at the music store. I spend hours wading through compilation albums for the right combination of songs. If I was deft with iTunes, I would probably download the exact arrangement my father had on his cassettes. But iTunes scares me. You, too, right? Of course. It’s a generation thing.
Twenty years down the road, maybe my kids will do the same thing. They’ll look for downloads of Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Adele, Rihanna and New Kids On The Block. Hey, NKOTB was cool in its day, okay? Throw in Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue (Locomotion, anyone?), and we have a party! The
very people who are on top of the charts and the epitome of cool now will be relegated to the oldies category soon enough.
When you really think about it, we (parents) are actually all pop stars! Our kids think we are the coolest, until they grow up and realise perhaps we don’t know everything after all. They hang on to every word we say when they are between the ages of zero and seven, and if you’re lucky, eight. After that, they move on to listen to everyone else but us.
But don’t lose heart. No longer finding our parents cool is a necessary rite of passage, as is rediscovering our parents’ coolness again later in life. It’s called coming back to the mothership. In the years in between these two stages, of wanton neglect and reckless living, we make stupid mistakes and hopefully find our place in the world. Then we discover that our parents were right all along. But it won’t be so much fun to listen to them all the time. It’s always better to trip over and land with our faces in the mud. Because kids are stupid that way.
For now my kids still think I am a superstar. The number of times “mummy” is recited in one day is enough to put me right smack in the middle of a pedestal. “Mummy, I need to pee. What’s a synonym, Mummy? Can I eat chocolate, Mummy? Why can’t I eat chocolate, Mummy? Can we go swimming, Mummy? Why can’t we swim when it’s raining, Mummy? I only want to eat rice and soup, Mummy!”
I’m not proud of it, but I have said this a couple of times over the years: “Don’t say mummy for 10 minutes, okay? Ask your father!”
Maybe I’ve said it more than a couple of times. Twelve times is not too damaging. Thirteen times, now that is child abuse.
After a crazy day with the kids, and I kiss them goodnight, for five minutes, I sigh in relief that the two of them are finally asleep. Then the silence is suddenly deafening. I check to see that they’re still breathing. I whisper a blessing in their ears, and their hands come out to swat me away like a fly. It’s okay, tomorrow I’ll be their superstar again. I hope.
Elaine Dong hopes to always be idolised by her kids. She blogs at www.angelolli.com.