10 Pieces of Pop Culture History That Your Kids Don’t Need to Know

January 10, 2012  |  Fatherhood

We give our kids a lot.  Before they are even born they get our genetics – our eye and hair color, an approximation of our height and body type.  They get our predispositions to everything from tooth decay to high blood pressure.   Once they come into the world they immediately begin to pick up things like our eating habits and our speech patterns and accents.   Eventually, we start trying to instill our values – we start with easy stuff like “please” and “thank you” and later with more nuanced concepts of fairness and justice.

Along the way – intentionally or not — we give them something of our style and cultural world view.   I play guitar and piano but I don’t own a gun or a fishing pole.  By virtue of this, Z knows nothing of hunting or fishing, but he knows what a capo is and wants me to teach him songs on the keyboard.   That’s the way it works.  At some point, however, each of us needs to realize that not everything we hold dear has inheritable value.  Some of it, in fact, would be better left on the scrapheap of memory.    With that in mind, I’ve put together a quick list for myself (and others from my generation) of pop culture tidbits that our kids would be better for without ever knowing.

Kid’s don’t need to know…

1. What a VCR is for.   Also in this category, how inspiring you find historical changes in cellphone size, TV channel selection, the mystifying power of the internet (because it’s only a mystery to you, to your kid its normal). Did you ever consider how close the words “quaint” and “antiquated” are?

2. That argyle sweaters are meant to be worn around the neck but never covering the little guy playing polo on your shirt.

3. Who “The Beatles” were.  I know, unspeakable heresy.  I’m not saying they weren’t terrifically talented, I’m saying that your music is your music.    Right or wrong, Lennon and McCartney’s  “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”  is a sad wallflower in the age of  Plies and Akon’s  “I Wanna F*ck U.”     And before you convince yourself the Fab 4 were the most popular band of all time, here’s a dose of reality:  Ke$ha’s “Tik-Tok” has sold more copies than any Beatles single…ever.  If my kids, in a fit of nostalgia, one day force my grandkids to listen to Ke$ha, it will be a sign that I utterly failed as a father.

4. Whether or not those are Bugle Boy jeans you’re wearing nor exactly how far up you could get the sleeves on your Members Only jacket.

5. How your life was changed by Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink (and for godsake, if you need to add St. Elmo’s Fire to this list, seek professional help now). If you must show them “classic movies” – consider ET and The Princess Bride.  Anthony Michael Hall didn’t get watchable until The Dead Zone and Judd Nelson never did.

6. That Boy George and Curious George are not cousins.

7. That you were in a band in high school, because that wasn’t really a “band” in the proper sense of the word.   You and some mildly talented friends rarely practiced and then publicly mangled everything from Rock the Kasbah to 99 Red Luft Balloons which you, mistakenly, thought were played with the same four chords when you performed them at that 10th grade pep rally.

8. Where you land on the James Tiberius Kirk v. Jean-Luc Picard continuum.    This is the grownup equivalent of Jacob v. Edward which is the little girl (and middle-aged housewife) version of the adolescent male Ginger v. Maryanne conundrum.   None of them are actual people, get over it.

9. About how you still, for no reason, wonder about the location of “the beef”, that sometimes when you see a passing aircraft you secretly think “da plane, da plane!” or that to pass time on the treadmill you try to see if you can go fast enough to generate 1.21 jigawatts.

10. The words to any Lionel Richie song. Yes, it’s insanely fun to belt out “is it me you’re looking for!!?” every time your five year old says “Hello” but the only person you’re amusing is you (this is a healthy dose of self-talk right here, part of my twelve step program to stop singing everything to Z). Every time you go all Dancin’ on the Ceiling or Say You, Say Me, you’re simply reminding your kids that you are desperately out of touch.

Never forget that the line between ‘old school’ and ‘old fool’ is perilously thin.



  1. Well, maybe I’ve failed then, because P not only knows the words to most the Beatles hits, but is firmly in the Kirk camp…though she knows Captain Mal would take both them, and Han Solo down easily.

  2. LOL Sean!

  3. And for awhile she was most impressed I could keep up with Michael Stipe with “It’s the End of the World As We Know it” and also recite “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.” As she approaches puberty, I’m sure this will all change. Until then, I will still try to make her see why Tom Baker is my Doctor (though I like her David Tennant Doctor as well), and why the Mr. Bean movies might be funny, but they are no Black Adder.

    All this while also teaching her camping and fishing (someone else will have to handle hunting).

  4. You are confusing record sales with changing the consciousness of the world’s culture — the Beatles did that, FOREVER… Kesha, whoever the hell that is, will NEVER change anything…

  5. So does this mean we are doing Dante a disservice by indoctrinating him with all things Marvel, Halo, and DC, with a side serving of Star Wars? This brings to the surface the secret fear I have that he will one day look back at all the “cool” skull themed and super hero clothing that I dress him in and hang his head in embarrassment. Is my child going to be anti-tattoo? anti – mohawk? anti-Dead Kennedys and Ramones? Say is isn’t so….

  6. It’s already painful enough when people over 40 don’t understand the random Monty Python quotes that often escape my mouth. It will be a proud moment when my child knows how to correctly answer the question, “what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

  7. African or European?

  8. We still use our VCR — and my son knows how to use it.

    Beatles can still be taught — after all when I was in my formative years, the Beatles had been broken up for 10 years. I still think they are the best. My child will learn, too.

  9. My friend’s 5-month old LOVEs Hey Jude. There’s just some things that not everyone can use, and this piece of ‘advice’ is one of those for us.

    • You know, I lot of people disagreed with this piece so I am doing some soul searching about it 🙂

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