Last night, as I was putting Honest Girl down for the night, she asked me to sing her a song. Softly, I began:

Baby mine, don’t you cry.

Baby mine, dry your eyes.

“What’s that song?”

“That’s ‘Baby Mine.’ It’s from the movie Dumbo. A mommy elephant sings it to her baby.”

Hearing the word elephant sent Honest Girl’s eternally associative mind on a spin.

“No! Sing the elephant song!”

Now, back in my day, “The Elephant Song” was happy, innocent, and joyful—“Skin-a-ma-rink-a-dink-a-dink / Skin-a-ma-rink-a-doo / I love you”—and called “The Elephant Song” because it was featured on “The Elephant Show.” For Honest Girl, “The Elephant Song” is “Elephant,” by Jason Isbell—a song about a woman dying of cancer who drinks and gets high to escape the “elephant” of her mortality. It’s beautiful, but completely heartbreaking. And there’s an f-bomb in it.

It’s one of Honest Girl’s favorite songs. The fact that she loves this song gives me equal parts terror and pleasure. It’s a reminder of what a weird parent I can sometimes be. A small symbol to remind me that one day she will either thank me for my quirks, or refuse to speak to me for the better part of her twenties.

Or both.

Dutifully, and being careful to substitute a few choice words here and there, I start to sing her “Elephant.” We got to the second verse:

I’d sing her classic country songs

And she’d get high and sing along.

She don’t have the voice to sing with now—

Suddenly, Honest Girl interrupted me.

“Sing me a country song.”

“You want me to sing you a country song?”

“Sing me a country song!”

Immediately, I burst into the first country song that popped into my head:

I hear that train a-comin’.

It’s rollin’ round the bend.

And I ain’t seen the sunshine since

I don’t know when.

I’m stuck in Folsom Prison,

And time keeps draggin’ on.

But that train keeps a-rollin’

On down the San Anton.

“Is that a country song?”

“Oh, yes. That’s a country song.”

“No. That’s a train song.”

“Train songs are country songs.”

“Train songs are country songs?”

“Yup.”

She paused, considering my words.

“Sing me the train song.”

And that’s how “Folsom Prison Blues” became my daughter’s bedtime song. I’m calling that a win.

As you can see from this post, I just don’t believe that there is such a thing as “inappropriate” music. My daughter knows all the words to both Sofia the First and James McMurtry, Frozen and Drive by Truckers. I sing her opera as well as Lucinda Williams. She loves when I plunk out “’Til There Was You” on the piano, and sits in rapture anytime daddy plays “Drops of Jupiter.” I’m not going to tell her what she “should” be listening to. I’m just having fun watching her explore it all. That might mean that I’m destroying her innocence, or gearing myself up for some naughty language down the line. But at least I don’t have to listen to Kids’ Bop in the interim.

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