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updated: 11/30/2011 5:46 AM

Songs in the key of a parent's life

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I went to pick up Kyle from soccer practice recently, and found him outside of the complex surrounded by his teammates.

When I got to where they were standing, I realized the other boys were watching Kyle, who was singing Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" at the top of his lungs, with accompanying choreography. It was really bad (singing and weird body movements both).

While I was bemused by Kyle's obvious cry for attention, I was entertained by the fact he was singing a song from 1981, a full 30 years before his impromptu performance.

Music has played a big part in my life, and it has played a role in my relationship with my children. As they get older, the relationship has changed (Haley, 17, is going to concerts now) but it is still significant.

On the surface, the relationship works like this: I hate the music they listen to, and they make fun of the music I listen to. So at least we have something to talk about. But there is so much more to the relationship.

As a baby boomer, I grew up with the music of the 1960s and '70s, and I think I can get everyone to agree that was the absolute best time for popular music ever. In fact, Haley agrees. She has often said she wished she had grown up when that music was new.

As a family, we were lucky to live through the Disney renaissance that included the release of movies like "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast." We got to enjoy songs like "Under the Sea'' and "Be My Guest'' over and over (and over and over), which I didn't mind too much because they are actually pretty good songs. Getting all the lyrics to "Be My Guest'' memorized was a big moment for me.

But the kids got an early introduction to the hits of the '70s with those other Disney videos (kids at camp, kids at the beach). The Disney kids were singing songs like "Celebrate" and "Hot, Hot, Hot." (I didn't say they were introduced to the best songs of the '70s.)

Actually, television commercials did that. If it weren't for the '70s, most products on the market today would have far less appeal because "Takin' Care of Business'' wouldn't be available to sell us trucks.

Haley, our first, went through a "Wicked" phase, the prequel to the "Wizard of Oz." Every morning on the way to the skating rink, we had to listen to the "Wicked" CD. Again, I didn't mind too much because the lyrics are extremely clever in most of those songs, and when Haley understood the meaning of foreshadowing, we had a great time diving into the words and phrases.

Perhaps our last totally innocent time musically came thanks to the Disney Channel's "High School Musical." It came out in 2006 when my kids were about 12, 10, 10 and 7. Those songs weren't so much clever as catchy, and when the nieces came over, we had the opportunity to see the entire movie portrayed by my kids and my in-laws' kids.

But then came rock and roll. Or should I say, today's rock and roll.

Once she got to high school, Haley decided she was an alternative rock gal. Through various sources, she found some bands that were on the cutting edge, apparently, and when it came time for her to start attending concerts, she attended "alternative band" events.

Then came Lindsey, who is now 15. About two years ago, she adopted hip-hop, or rap, which apparently are different from each other but don't ask me how. To paraphrase Jimmy Buffett, there is no music in that music.

I quote Jimmy Buffett a lot. I get a lot of grief for that.

Dan has adopted '70s music as his preferred genre, although he is into what I call big hair rock. Then, the other day he asked to buy a book written by the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rock and roll literature -- yikes!

Our generation's music offended the previous generation because of its noise, its beat and its lyrics. Today's music offends my generation because it is just bad.

The worst musical experience I have had with my kids had nothing to do with music at all. Haley came home from one of the concerts and showed me the photos she and her friends had taken with the band after the show.

Yikes! Again.

What I wouldn't give to have the happy notes of "Just Can't Wait to be King" bouncing through the house again.

• Kent McDill is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Janice, have four children, Haley, Dan, Lindsey and Kyle.

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