Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sing it out loud

The other day while Sophie and I were running errands, she shared with me some songwriting she has been working on. It went something like "My father is from Texas! My mother is from Oklahooooooommmmaaaaa!" It sounded familiar. She explained that she was writing new verses for a song their principal, who also doubles as the school's music teacher, sang for them in music class the other day. Sophie was astonished as I belted out the first couple verses of "House of the Rising Sun." "Everyone my age knows that song," I explained. 

But what a choice for a 3-4-5 grade class. And what a conversation it engendered. We always like a learning opportunity over here at the House of Figs!
Mama: Do you know what the song is about?

Sophie: Um, no. I just really like it.

Mama: The House of the Rising Sun is a house of prostitution. That's where men pay women to have sex with them.* Did [the music teacher] explain that to you?

Sophie: No, he just said it was a symbol for something that was sad. 

Mama: Well, that is usually a sad life for women. 
We talked about why women end up making a living that way, especially back when the song was written (1933): poverty, lack of education, abuse. "See how bad things were when men ran the world??" [And of course, they still are in many places.] And why that was often a sad life: no family,  social marginalization, bad diseases. 

So why, she asked, is the house named after the rising sun? Good question! Because the men have stayed up so late drinking, having sex, and gambling that when they finally leave, there's the sun rising for the next day. Not that I would know anything about that. 

And why did he go back to that house (to wear that ball and chain)? Because men are WEAK! And apparently sometimes not very smart. I mean, really. If a song has lyrics that you cannot explain without getting yourself into potential trouble with parents, PICK ANOTHER SONG. 

But once we cleared up all those details, we had a rockin good time listening to all the covers of this song on youtube. We like The Animals version the most. The Pink Floyd one was good too. Sophie wanted to know if something was wrong with Bob Dylan.

Look! Here's the karaoke version of The Animals. You can sing along too! Sophie and I used pencils for microphones. It is important that this song be sung at the top of one's lungs.

Of course we then had to talk about why they are wearing suits.

* We also talked about how parents have different ideas about what and when children need to know about sex. But most parents agree that their kids should hear about it from them, not from some kid at school. She understands I would prefer it if she did not advertise this knowledge on the playground. I told her it's fine to tell the principal she knows what's up. 


NJDecorator said...

I think it was terrific parenting. My son and I have always had the relationship where we would talk about anything and today at 16, he still does. I consider it a blessing - although I hear things maybe I don't want to know....

Anyways, I applaud you for it.

gwendomama said...

that is a GREAT post! i love you for telling her straight up.

ElleBee said...

What a great conversation! I had a "straight up" conversation when I found out that SS#1 had watched "FLIGHT 93" (!!!!) at a friend's house one night. We had a very serious discussion about the events of September 11th. Not exactly a sex discussion, but a serious topic, nonetheless.

Of course it was nothing compared to the conversation I WANTED to have with his friend's mom...

lisagh said...

You're amazing.

Kate said...

You are awesome! I love it when parents tell their kids the truth instead of changing the subject or waiting for someone else to explain it to them. My kids (2 & 4) know all the correct names for their body parts etc. I could have done without the cloning discussion with my 4 year old at bedtime tonight though!

Jennifer H said...

Wonderful parenting. If you ever set up a hotline, I need the number. :-)

You handled that beautifully.