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Children’s Song Lyrics: Are You Kidding Me?

I am a rocker chick. I spent a good portion of the late 1980s and early 1990s working with a local rock band as a manager and roadie and could run with the best of them.  Hairbands were my preference and specialty (although I did enjoy alternative classics from Depeche Mode, the Cure and Suzie, and the Banshees) but I did expand my tastes to include more “contemporary” bands and artists such as Incubus, Tonic, Breaking Benjamin, Adele, and Pharrell.  I like to dance around, shaking my booty and singing at the top of my lungs…not in a Tom Cruise in Risky Business sort of way but you can get the picture.  Well, that changed when I had the twins….much like going from a car to a mini-van, I lost my mom “coolness” because now my days are consumed with children’s songs such as Itsy Bitsy Spider, Old McDonald, B-I-N-G-O  and any song by The Wiggles…*sigh*.

After loading up the diaper bag, snacks, juice, and both children, I turn on the vehicle to listen to 1 of 4 CDs dedicated to the genre of Children’s/Toddler’s music.  I would find my eyes glazing over, only to be snapped back to reality when my daughters would start singing which has become my joy (particularly since Charlotte had a speech delay).  But, now because our commute to appointments is usually an hour one way, I find myself really listening to the lyrics.  What can be quite disturbing, yet comical, are the themes of these songs:  the death, dismemberment, and destruction.  Let me give you a few examples that I know I sang as a child and never gave much thought to –

Exhibit A – This Old Man

A song about a little old man that goes around “playing knick-knack patty whack” to a numbers game…well, child, I’d run away from this old man right now because he is beating you on your thumb, your shoe, and your knee before wreaking havoc on your door, a hive, and a gate before finally somehow getting to heaven.   Sounds like he has an anger management problem to me….

Exhibit B – Ring around the Rosey

A song about the Black Plague in London and the need to sniff posy flowers to ward off the stench of burning flesh and death…interesting choice for a children’s song that involves children linking hands and dancing around in a circle before collapsing.  Playing dead doesn’t seem appealing anymore…go figure!

Exhibit C – Rock a Bye Baby

Create insecurity in your infant singing this one…now, unless you live in a treehouse, I cannot fathom the necessity to put your newborn’s cradle up in a tree, let alone an unstable tree that will cast the inhabitant out at the first hint of a wind gust.  Are you kidding me?!  I would have nightmares, too, if someone sang that not only will I sleep in an insecure location but that I will fall to my potential death in the process.  Better get the Department of Social Services on the phone for this one.

Exhibit D – London Bridge

A bridge that collapses…do I need to say more?!

There are also songs about being manipulated into rolling out of bed (Six in the Bed), eating rancid peanuts and dying (Found a Peanut), and duck dismemberment (Allouette).  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of children’s songs that are silly, witty, and educationally based.  My children love to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (which comes out Binko Binko Ittle Star), and the Alphabet Song over and over.  Those are the ones that I have managed to weed out on the radio apps I have and use often as background while we play with play dough, color, sit on our potties (theirs, not mine, just for clarification) or dance around like silly people.  While I know adult music is full of angst, heartbreak, and complicated emotions, these are emotions and situations that we as adults can relate to.  I think childhood is a time of innocence that should be preserved as long as possible.  We are given years, in adulthood, to process the cruelties of love won and lost, the guilt of regret and grief related to personal loss.  Maybe I’m selfish but I want my babies to stay babies for as long as possible and if I can shelter them from the harsh realities (even if they are just songs) for just a little longer, then I’m doing my job. 

By the way, old man, you’re on notice…take your “patty whack” elsewhere or you’ll know the true meaning of those words.

Good night!

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