I consider myself very fortunate. I have two beautiful, healthy, kind, intelligent, and athletic elementary-aged children. They have taught me more about life in the past 10 years than I ever learned on my own. Being that they are in elementary school, we get to participate in all kinds of school projects, most involving history or geography. So, I was thrilled when my 4th grade daughter came home from school this spring with a notice about her “Rock Poetry” Assignment. Being that they were combining two subjects that don’t get much air-time in public school these days — music and poetry — I was ecstatic! I am a big proponent of anything that promotes and fosters creativity, individualized thought, and a love of music!
(image borrowed from the Little Miss Web site)
Brenna, my oldest, is a lot like me. She loves music (but can’t carry a tune in a bucket) and has a wide range of tastes, from classic rock, to country, to pop, to hip-hop, and she even enjoys classical music. She can effortlessly remember lyrics and she has an uncanny ability, for a girl her age, to really interpret the meaning in a song. She is kind of an old soul in some ways, empathetic beyond measure, and I was confident this project was going to be right up her alley.
The first task was picking an age-appropriate song that did not contain any foul language or controversial topics — more of a challenge than you would think. We could immediately negate Rihanna, Britney Spears, and Katie Perry; artists that young girls tend to be drawn to. My girls have been exposed to Sugarland pretty much their whole lives: we have been to two Sugarland concerts together (5/20/11 in Boston will be the third one), they wear their t-shirts with pride, and watch the videos over and over on their iPods. Without hesitation, Sugarland was Brenna’s first choice, and album by album, we began to research the lyrics of some of her favorite songs. She started with some of the older albums and worked her way up to the newer ones.
(Sugarland, Springfield, MA 2009)
“Want To” was a contender, probably due to the fact that we had frequently belted it out in the car. But, upon closer inspection of the lyrics, she wasn’t sure her teacher would approve of the “kissing part” (and I was secretly happy I didn’t have to explain the overt adult message in the song). “Something More” was a quick blip on the radar, probably because it was the anthem to help me quit a job I hated, and she heard it over and over again (boss man, here’s my two weeks…). I suggested “Mean Girls,” but it didn’t speak to her as much as it speaks to me, a woman who has come in contact with her fair share of claws. On to the next choice. We went through almost every song from “Love on the Inside,” although we didn’t need to take the time to look up lyrics because she knows every word to every song by heart. But, my daughter was on a mission, she had an idea in her head, and we hadn’t found the perfect fit yet. “The Incredible Machine” was next, a CD that has been on repeat in my house and car ever since it came out last year. Brenna’s two favorite songs from that album are “Every Girl Like Me” (she loves the tootise-pop-drop-don’t-stop part) and “Little Miss.” I can’t tell you how many trips we have been on where we would just play those two songs over and over again (much to the dismay of my darling husband and his poor eardrums). it was kind of like my daughters’ and my girl-power songs and the three of us belt those lyrics out like it is our job! When we looked at the lyrics for “Every Girl Like Me,” Brenna looked at me kind of perplexed and asked innocently, “What does that EVEN MEAN?” Not a good choice of song, since accurately analyzing the lyrics was going to be the bulk of her grade. We moved on to “Little Miss” and I could tell by the look on her face that we had hit a lyrical home-run! She got it, she felt it, it spoke to her.
She brought the lyrics into school for approval, her teacher deemed them appropriate, and we had ourselves the makings of a great school project. She had to write the lyrics again in her own handwriting, and then listen to the song so that she could adequately answer some very specific questions. We cuddled on the couch and played Little Miss on my computer. Once. Twice. Three times. We felt it. We pondered it. And both of us got a little misty-eyed. We didn’t share why with each other, because we didn’t have to…we just knew — the lyrics were speaking to us in ways we could both understand. She in her way and I in mine. We felt it.
And, she began to write. She wrote from the heart. She wrote in her scratchy 4th grade penmanship. She wrote about how bad things happen, but you have to fight through it. She wrote that you have to believe in yourself. She wrote for the people that feel like they have no friends. She wrote that you are worth it. She wrote that in the end, you should always have positive uplifting thoughts. She wrote that she can relate, because she has had bad days too. And, as her mother, I watched her with a swell of pride — and of sorrow. Pride for the amazing girl that she is. Sorrow for all the pain that I know is inevitable as she goes through life, pain that we all experience in varying degrees. Pain that is so common as little girls become women. We felt it.
I think her teacher felt it, too. Because she got a great grade (an A+) on that project.
Good grade or not…She is loved!
(*blog post created at the request of The Little Miss Project)