Consumerism is like mould. It creeps up on you in places you’d never have suspected.
On our way home from an appointment this afternoon, Naomi was fussing a bit about being in the car seat, and I started singing to her. As I sang, however, I was very surprised to hear the words I sang as a mindful adult.
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
If that mockingbird don’t sing,
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
If that diamond ring turns brass,
Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass.
If that looking glass gets broke,
Mama’s gonna buy you a billy goat.
If that billy goat won’t pull,
Mama’s gonna buy you a cart and bull.
If that cart and bull turn over,
Mama’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover.
If that dog named Rover won’t bark.
Mama’s gonna buy you a horse and cart.
If that horse and cart fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.
So hush little baby don’t you cry,
‘Cause Daddy loves you and so do I.
The premise of the song is that in order to get your child to be quiet, you must repeatedly buy the child gifts. And as each gift fails, you repeatedly must buy them something better.
The song doesn’t teach us to cuddle our kids. Or spend time with them. Or play with them. Buy them something. Then they will be quiet and leave you alone.
It really is quite surprising to find a ballad encouraging consumerism in the middle of a child’s lullaby.
As mindful parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children the values we believe in. Even something harmless as a lullaby can teach them something about our values. How surprising that a song about consumerism snuck it’s way into our score.
When you consider this impact and this line of thinking, you become more cautious of the rhymes and stories you choose to teach your children. Much has been written about the hidden meanings in nursery rhymes and songs, so I will not delve too deeply in that pool. However, I believe fact is far more interesting than fiction and being a bit of a true story buff, love to share stories of people, places, things, and ideals to teach what I believe are the important values to my daughter.
For now, there are many simple songs that teach sharing, community, hard work, and determination. As she gets older, I look forward to telling her wonderful stories to illustrate the many character traits and values I hope to instill on her heart. To teach her about compassion, I will share with them the story of St. Francis of Assisi. How about the importance of determination? I will tell them the story of Terry Fox. The value of wisdom? Confucius comes to mind. The benefits of patience? Who better than Simeon the Righteous!
In the end, a few silly songs about buying toys isn’t likely to hurt your children any more than it has hurt all the children who’ve sung it since it was penned over 45 years ago. But it is important to recognize the alternatives and be able to both teach and answer to your children’s ever-growing minds and imagination.
Think i am being too serious? Think I am right on track? Have you considered the many lessons and values that are taught children in many of the common nursery rhymes and children’s stories? I would love to hear your thoughts!