Sharing her love of music, a mom gets closer to her kids—and makes mornings rock.

Illustration of record player
Credit: Illustration by Macrina Busato

Some days, when my children can't rouse themselves from sleep, I crank up the classic rock. After a few bars of "I'm So Tired" or "I'm Only Sleeping," they moan and complain, but only briefly—because it's the Beatles, after all, and no one can stay angry when John, Paul, George, and Ringo are on the scene.

Claire, age 12, and Ben, 9, stretch, yawn, and sing along in sleepy, mumbly voices, while they rub their eyes and amble toward the kitchen. As we pour cereal into bowls and pack lunch boxes, we often belt out songs, dance around, and take turns playing DJ.

I call it Mommy's Morning School of Rock. A musically obsessed mom of a certain age, I was disappointed that my children seemed to be graduating directly from kiddie music like Laurie Berkner and Tom Chapin to auto-tuned pop hits. While I wanted to respect their budding tastes, I thought they deserved exposure to a wider variety of genres.

So we've sung Paul McCartney's "Birthday" song, jammed with the Black Keys, and perfected the art of air guitar with Jack White. We've listened to Billie Holiday and Aaron Copland and danced a mean "Mambo Italiano" around the kitchen island to Rosemary Clooney.

Visiting professors are welcome at Mommy's Morning School of Rock. Some days Claire and Ben spin their favorites, such as Bruno Mars or Katy Perry, and explain to me why they like a certain song, or how it makes them feel.

Thanks to our lessons, my kids understand what Adam Levine means when he sings about moving like Jagger, and I've gained a greater appreciation for the pop hits they love. Claire has even developed a passion for vintage vinyl and shops tag sales with my husband, Marc, searching for favorite LPs.

Recently, we watched a video of John Lennon's "Imagine." It was especially meaningful, because my daughter and son were both learning the song on acoustic guitar and piano at the time. Claire—who has become a devoted Beatles fan—quietly asked how I had learned that John Lennon died. I found myself saying softly, "I was about your age, baby." For a few minutes, I shared things that I hadn't planned to tell them that morning—stories about when I was little, about the way New York City used to be, and about what my bedroom in Queens looked like, how its walls were covered with posters of the Beatles. They listened, and laughed at my New York accent creeping back into my speech, until we had to end the day's lesson and head out the door.

Photo The Harrises of Ridgewood, NJ
Credit: Courtesy of Kathleen McKitty Harris

Music can't solve the world's problems, but as Levon Helm reportedly once said, "If you pour some music on whatever's wrong, it'll sure help out." I hope Claire and Ben continue their musical studies throughout their lives, discovering songs that speak to their souls and give expression to the unnamed feelings they hold inside. And years from now, when they're driving and a tune that I played for them comes on the radio, I hope they'll remember the love and laughter that accompanied it.

The Harrises of Ridgewood, NJ

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