It sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it, brainwashing children. It’s like something out of a horror story; evil parents turn their kids from pleasant, everyday children into killer zombie monsters; but I’m of the opinion that brainwashing has a bad press. You see, all parents either brainwash their children, have done in the past, or will do so in the future, and the children turn out fine. Mostly.*
For a start we brainwash our children into behaving in certain ways. I know that some people would call this teaching or educating, or other such fancy terms, and it is true that brainwashing your children to suppress their natural animal instinct of beating someone smaller than themselves until they get what they want is a good thing, but there are other behavioural rules which we inflict on children that are purely designed to ensure they fit into societal norms; rules which seem ridiculous when put under scrutiny**. Take nose picking. I find nose picking unpleasant and tell my children to blow into a tissue as it more hygienic. In some parts of China, nose picking is the norm. It’s seen as a good way to clear the nose. To somebody from these areas, the thought of blowing snot onto paper which you then put into your pocket in case you need to blow your nose again is seen as disgusting.
Still, I’m not inhuman. I understand the need to brainwash children into behaving as well-rounded members of a community. There is another, more insidious form of brainwashing that is less easy to justify: brainwashing your children to like what you like. Sometimes this happens by accident. For example, I love cricket but I swore never to force my boys to play a sport unless they wanted to. Still, as they have watched cricket since they were born, have had the rules explained to them in detail, and (most importantly) have grown up in a time when the England Cricket team is quite good for once, it was only a matter of time before they started playing cricket in our garden each evening.
Other times, I have made a more conscious decision to brainwash my children. I am a fan of Ipswich Town Football Club, so as soon as my first son was born I bought him a replica shirt. He has had a replica shirt most years. He is now 6 years old and an Ipswich fan. His younger brother will also be an Ipswich fan, because I will brainwash him too. If I’m honest, none of this is for their benefit. In fact by making them Ipswich fans I will be opening them up to many years of hurt, psychologically scarring them to always expect the worst, to feel constantly disappointed and unfulfilled, but I did it anyway.
Then comes the brainwashing handed down by each generation. In the case of our family it is music. When I was a kid, my Dad played music from the Rolling Stones, The Who and a lot of Atlantic soul music. I don’t have many memories of singing nursery rhymes as a kid, but I do remember singing Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding. The favourite song of my two boys is Song 2 by Blur. This is by design. They also like LCD Soundsystem, The Flaming Lips and Madness, plus love the Beastie Boys (played with strategic coughing whenever they drop the F-bomb). I know this brainwashing is working because as we were out in the car one day, a clip of Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns ‘n’ Roses was played on the radio. As soon as it was over, my two-year old shouted “that, more!” at the top of his voice, pointing to the radio. “Yes,” I thought, “my job here is done.”
But before you all pick up the phone to call social services, there is hope. My children won’t grow up as mini versions of me. I am so confident of this fact that I’m willing to lay money on it (but only in the state of Nevada for my American friends). Shall I tell you why? Because when I was 15 years old I discovered The Smiths. They were totally different from any music I’d ever heard before. Each song’s lyrics were filled with a witty cocktail of longing and despair which transported me away from my dark, dank bedroom and onto the dark, dank streets of late eighties Manchester. My Dad hated them, an act which cemented my love of the Smiths. Soon I discovered other music that also wound up my Dad, both changing my musical outlook forever and starting my transformation into an independent person. You see, no matter how hard most of us try, our children will eventually decide for themselves what they love and what they don’t. I just hope to god that my kids don’t end up loving Celine Dion.
Oh, and I have a confession to make. All through this blog are links to some great music. Whatever you do, don’t click on them as there is a danger that I’ll end up brainwashing you too…..
*As an aside, for those of you who have never blogged, us bloggers ‘tag’ each post with words that explain what the blog is about – it helps people find us via search engines. WordPress kindly offer suggested tags based on what you have written and at this point in the blog, they suggest Christianity, the Democratic Party and Shopping. I take it that Scientology isn’t on the list due to the Church of Scientology’s litigious nature (and their innocence, of course)***.
** This is my longest sentence to date. I’m very proud of it. Thank you for reading it all, you can take a breath now
*** Yes, I’m a coward
A typical car journey (thanks for this Ben!)