Thursday, October 29, 2015

My son, the teacher

Lately I've been playing a John Lennon compilation CD in the car in order to distract my four-year-old son from his Hotel California fixation. (Yes, back in the summer I scratched my once-a-year Eagles itch only to inadvertently create a pint-sized Don Henleyite. If I hear Hotel California one more time, I'll be like a wild animal caught in some steel trap, and chew off my leg to get myself free.)

In any case, I had been curious to see if any Lennon tunes would catch his fancy, and lo and behold, somewhere in the middle of Instant Kharma, he blurted out: "Daddy. I want the people song."

"The people song?"


I had to think for a moment, but then it occurred to me which one he must have had in mind, so I cued up Imagine. At the opening piano notes, however, his response was to indignantly shout "No! I said the people song!"

"But this one goes 'Imagine all the people...'"

"That's not the people song!"

At this point I committed the cardinal sin of parenthood, which is to let a four-year-old get under your skin. "Alright," I said, duly flummoxed, "how does the people song go?" And then, in a very recognizable melody, he sang:

"All we are give people chance."

At the dinner table that night I felt the need to correct what I considered his misunderstanding of the lyrics. "That song isn't saying give people chance, but give peace a chance. Do you know what 'peace' means?"

He shook his head no.

I awkwardly tried to define it for him, but with mixed results. "It's sort of like 'peace and quiet', but not really." I then referenced the idea of war, and peace being its opposite, but stopped short of talking about people killing each other in the name of geopolitics. Something just felt wrong about what I was doing, and I couldn't put my finger on it, so I simply let it go.

Later in the evening, however, I brooded over this parental faltering, and my inability to put such a simple song into the right context for my son, and then I realized I had been looking at things through the wrong end of the telescope, as it were. Instead of focusing on the obvious way in which my son got it wrong, I considered the ways in which he may have gotten it right, grammar notwithstanding.

Give people (a) chance...a chance to what, exactly?

-A chance to be themselves, or feel like they're in harmony with who they really are?

-A chance to live life on as much of an equal footing with their peers as society can allow?

-A chance to move past their own mistakes to some sort of redemption, or even a chance to freely make mistakes in the first place and then learn from them?

-A chance to give and receive love?

-A chance to exist from day-to-day without experiencing violence or exploitation?

-A chance to

As I mulled all of this over, I realized that although my son's rendition may not have been exactly what the words were saying, it may have zeroed in on exactly what the words mean. Furthermore, he triggered a thought process that made me examine the concept of peace through the lens of innocently misheard lyrics, thus helping me arrive at a more articulate and nuanced understanding. After all, what is peace if not the act of giving people (individually or collectively) a chance of any kind?

Needless to say, I no longer correct him on this one.