Monday, April 10, 2006

Anything You Want to Be

One of Cole's favorite videotapes is called Richard Scarry's Best Busy People Video Ever, a tall title if you ask me. Anybody who claims to be the best at anything, even if they are the best, is inviting all kinds of comments, some welcome and some, perhaps, unwelcome. I admit that I'm looking for a little something to poke fun at here. After all this is a CHILDREN'S video production.

The scene opens in Ms. (Ms. Honey is liberated) Honey's grade school classroom and quickly moves to the playground where children (pigs, goats, bears, etc.) are at recess discussing what they might be when they grow up. One dreams about becoming a baker, another a truck-driving delivery person, another a farmer, another a travel agent and the most heart-warming part (to this heart) comes at the end when one little animal tells Ms. Honey that he wants to become a teacher.

The whole thing is kind of cute and fairly benign and it's something that I can actually stand listening to--that is until I hear the closing song. It goes something like this:

You can be anything you want to be
Just look around and you will see
It's a busy world and there's lots to do
And this busy world needs all of you.

The first time I heard this song, it didn't much bother me. But then, about the four hundredth time through, I got to thinking. Some kids can't be anything that they want to. Maybe their public school education will prevent them from becoming President of the United States. Or the fact that they watch television programs that have a line running through them because their parents can't afford cable. Or the fact that they watch television at all. Or their lack of complete exposure to Disney princesses. Or maybe Aidan can't become president because she's a girl. Or because, somehow, she doesn't fit in. Or maybe other children can't become what they want to be because society only accepts a certain kind, a certain color. Only certain kinds of kids can go on to "be anything they want to" and what if my kid isn't that certain kind of kid. The song started grating on me and before I knew what had happened, I had created my own lyrics to sing along when the closing credits arrived.

They go something like this:

You can be anything you want to be
If you have lots of mo-on-ey
If you're not Black or Hispanic or a Woman (there are others, I know, but I could only fit three)
You can find a high-paying job without even looking.

Every time I sang my lyrics to MYSELF, albeit loudly, I chuckled and patted myself on the back for a job well done. Until...

the day that I heard Cole singing MY lyrics instead of the originally recorded lyrics.

His lyrics went something like this:

You can be anything you want to be
If you are having money
Black, Hissspanic, Woman
without even looking.

It was hard for me to hear what I was hearing. I didn't know whether to be proud or horrified. Tad chose to be horrified and asked that I not sing this version to my two-year-old. And I? I continue to be a little proud and a little horrified. My son may be on his way to understanding social injustice. But then, based on his version of the lyrics, he may just be repeating what he's heard. That's it. Repeating my inane lyrics. Inane to him anyway. I maintain that there is injustice in this world, plenty of it, but when is it appropriate for a parent to teach this to her child? I think that this lesson, one of many lessons that fall into the injustice category, may need to wait beyond the age of two.

And until he's ready for my, our tutelage on this subject, I've reverted to singing the original lyrics, the ones about being able to be anything you want to be no matter. I'm also hoping that he doesn't belt out my well-intentioned but garbled lyrics at the coffee shop or in the library, his two favorite 'quiet' places to loudly sing. I'd rather not have to explain to people I know and don't know how 'money, Blacks, Hispanics, Women' and 'not looking' came to be in a song that my two-year-old is singing.

1 comment:

Kstack said...

It's the song Craig Ferguson's little boy sang to Craig's dad while he was in the hospital, shortly before he died.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYhVnsCbCg0&feature=related