The Hip Hop Guide to Parenting
I want to talk to you about a new parenting therapy. It doesn’t cost anything. Or involve a psychiatrist. It’s cheap, easy and works for me. So far it’s not been written about in any parenting books. It’s an untapped area (a rare thing in our climate of sharing everything). The only drawback is it might not work for absolutely everyone.
Sometimes when I’m having a bad parenting day, when I feel like the balance is tipping into a dangerously anxious territory… I do this thing. What is it you ask? What is your secret parenting survival tip that helps you get through tough times?
I have basically discovered that reciting old school hip-hop lyrics out loud is what works for me. More than lighting a Diptique candle. Or sitting in an aromatherapy bath. More than deep breathing. Yesterday after a particularly bad run in with my daughter, I chanted LL Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out,’ under my breath. Last week it was a DMX lyric – ‘X gonna give it to ya,’ over and over. Every parent can identify with that one instance when you’re teetering on a precipice about to lose it. And for those occasions one of my ultimate favourites (should be a parenting anthem really) is Grandmaster Flash and the classic – ‘The Message’ with its epochal refrain – ‘Don’t Push Me ‘Cause I’m Close To The Edge.’ I’m not sure it was what Grandmaster had in mind when he wrote it but it works for me. Thank you Grandmaster.
What these lyrics have in common is that they’re powerful, potent, and immediate. They allow you to VENT your feelings. And we as parents, as people, need an outlet. Mindfulness is fine if you have the time and mental tools at your disposal but sometimes you just need to get it all out. Even Julie Andrews has days when she can’t be arsed. We all do. No sleep. Tantrums. Headaches. Anxiety. A plastic toy from the CBeebies mag permanently stuck between your toes.
The most recent example was last Monday. I won’t go on about toddlers and getting dressed because let’s face it you know. But let’s just say I was in a kind of parental purgatory that involved me running back and forth from my daughter’s room to my room – trying to sort my hair out, get a nappy on my daughter and apply mascara (on my daughter…no hang on that’s wrong). I was in my pants for what felt like hours. I sweated as the central heating went into overdrive. Every time I got an item of clothing over her head she ripped it off again. It grew late and I thought about calling work and telling them I couldn’t come in today. I wondered if being in my pants at eight thirty was a credible enough excuse.
I felt something go BOOM. I slammed the door. Usually I like to throw my partner’s socks out the window (less damage than a TV) but I couldn’t see any to hand. My heart was beating madly and I knew that I was in the danger zone. But I knew just what to do. I sat on the bathroom floor, felt the cold creeping up my calves and for two minutes I chanted – ‘It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under,’ until I felt my breathing return to normal. And it worked.
For me the most effective method is speaking old school hip-hop lyrics out loud. I grew up in South London in the late eighties. There is something about certain hip-hop songs that is very nostalgic for me. It transports me elsewhere. And that’s my point. It doesn’t need to be hip-hop. What you need in these moments is a sense of perspective. A rallying cry that can give you the impetus to keep going.
It’snot a bad thing if it makes you dance (even if it’s in your pants). And I appreciate some of these lyrics are about more serious situations than toddler tantrums. Much of the music I loved as a teenager was about rising out of poverty, dealing with gang violence, institutional racism- surviving and triumphing under impossible circumstances. I have no experience of these things.
And yet the words give me strength.
So my parenting advice…Harness the power of music. It could be Guns N’ Roses (Axl Rose is a great vehicle for parental rage). Iggy Pop (again lots of pent up aggression) or if you need calm in a storm – Kate Bush (‘This Woman’s Work’ always make me tear up). It doesn’t matter. In those moments when everything feels like it’s going wrong, you need a release. Chant your favourite song. Remember a time when you stood in a club with your Hi-tops on. If nothing else it will temporarily transport you to a brighter space.
And if you see me chanting under my breath, give me a wide berth. I’m having a bad day. (Trying not to lose my head. Ha. Ha. Ha)