Becoming a father has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It has been all of those good and wonderful things that you’re supposed to say about parenthood in order not to look like you want to disappear for a few years and show back up when the child is old enough to dress, feed and/or cook for herself. Oh, and go to college.
I’m joking. But seriously.
One lesson I’ve learned about parenting — courtesy of my now-8-year-old (!!!!) daughter — is how much of this job really is improvising and learning on the fly. And by learning, I mean unlearning several useless behaviors (stuffing emotions and eating things directly off the floor) and finding new and productive ways to continue on with the things I love most in life that aren’t fit for tiny sponges who like to repeat things at the darndest of times.
This brings me to one of the most life-altering lessons and compromises I’ve had to make in life: music.
I’m a music head. There is almost always music playing around me. One of my greatest joys as a parent has been introducing my daughter (and sons when they’re old enough to care and appreciate) to my favorite musical artists. My daughter is an ardent Michael Jackson fan at this point in her life because who isn’t? I’ve tried to get her into jazz, but it’s a little bit too boring for her thus far.
One struggle I’ve had is that I’m in my mid-30s and grew up with the hip-hop generation, which means I’m a hip-hop head. And while I will defend the artistry with my last breath, I also realize that a solid 99 percent of the art is not for the ears of babes, and the other 1 percent includes acts like Vanilla Ice and I just can’t do that to myself or my daughter.
It is because of this conundrum that I made an interesting discovery one day: gospel music. Now, I’ll admit this openly: While I grew up in the church, at some point I stopped engaging with my spirituality. Outside of the Kirk Franklins of the world, I couldn’t tell you any gospel artists unless they played their music on secular radio stations. But in my attempts to find music that could be enjoyed by my daughter that wouldn’t cause me to have a conniption or include the words “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” I asked her mother what she listened to in the car. She mentioned a gospel radio station. I decided to give it a try.
You know those scenes in movies where somebody sees the light and angels start singing, or at the very humming? That was me.
Well, at first, I wasn’t that moved. This is typically what happens when you’re just doing something to go through the motions, but one day I started listening and a particular song caught my ear: Maurette Brown-Clark’s “It Ain’t Over.”
As a music lover, voices have always been the thing that got me into an artist, so I’m amazed at myself for not giving gospel and praise and worship its full due until my daughter was born. The singing on “It Ain’t Over” nearly made me go to church that Sunday. Nearly. It became my gateway song. After finding it on Spotify and listening to it 100 times in a row, I began seeking out other songs and made a discovery that I, again, am ashamed to have made so late in life: I love gospel and praise and worship.
For one, because of the messaging, I’ve found myself in a much better headspace emotionally. Secondly, most of the artists can sang. Not sing: sang. We’re not talking studio tricks to improve a questionable voice. We’re talking powerhouse voices that invoke the spirit of the Lord. And most important, this was music I could listen to with my daughter and feel she’d get valuable energy. There’s a guitar solo some seven-plus minutes into Byron Cage’s “Great and Mighty” that caused me to pull over in traffic to fully appreciate for its purely inspirational energy.
Now, every morning when I’m taking my daughter to school, we turn straight to our local gospel station (Praise 104.1 in Washington, D.C.) and take in all that is inspirational in the world. Sometimes we sing along with songs. Other times we talk about the messaging so I can see if she’s really paying attention, and she usually is.
While being a father has changed my life in ways too numerous to list, causing a late-in-life reintroduction to the music of my youth has been one that brings me great joy. I like feeling good at the start the day and I enjoy being happy as a rule. Inspirational music achieves this goal.
Of course, I still listen to my not-safe-for-work hip-hop songs; I can’t let go of who I am. But what I have learned is that you can be many things at the same time, as being a father has placed me firmly in the realm of being many people I had no idea I was capable of being.