7 Songs From My Youth That Help Me Parent In My 40s

by Amanda Magee
Originally Published: 
Three girls singing songs that helped their mom and dad parent in their 40s

I wonder if that makes me old? Who am I kidding? Of course it does—the bagger just called me Ma’am. I passed the 40-year mark without much fanfare. I didn’t suddenly feel old or wise. I’d already realized that sparkly eye shadow and miniskirts aren’t the most flattering choices for me, but I rock a few tiny braids in my hair without apology.

I look at pictures of myself from my past and feel a kind of tenderness. The baby face that I thought was fat! How adorable is it that I thought making out in the basement with a boy while Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” played meant that we were truly meant for one another? How deluded was I to think that working as a carpenter with a Camel Light hanging out of my mouth and being able to ash into a Mountain Dew bottle made me cool? What was up with the perms?

I wish I could undo having worn that double-breasted, acid-wash jean jacket with faux suede panels and elastic waist, but that ship has sailed. So has the long period of adoring Rick Astley. I don’t wish away the times I fell ass over tea kettle for jerks who didn’t deserve me. The hours spent next to my boom box playing, rewinding and replaying “If You Leave” and “Groovy Kind of Love” are precious to the fortysomething me. We live the days of our childhood and teen years as we are in them, not with the wisdom that comes from surviving them.

That wisdom, though, is going to come in handy as I help my daughters navigate the shoals of their own adolescent lives. I want them to make bad fashion choices and experiment with their hairstyles and, on occasion, crush on the wrong person. I hope they avoid the cigarettes, though, because maternal understanding only goes so far.

I know it’s going to get dicey around here. So, as we hurtle into the tween years, I’m going to rely on these seven songs when I am uncertain about how much to share or how much to steer. These songs immediately take me to moments in time, making me feel alive and connected to a part of myself that isn’t wound too tight or at wit’s end.

1. ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ by Cyndi Lauper

Through the volatile mood swings and hair color changes (theirs and mine), deep down we’re still us.

I come home in the morning light

My mother says when you gonna live your life right

Oh mother dear we’re not the fortunate ones

And girls they want to have fun

Oh girls just want to have fun

2. ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ by Simple Minds

No matter what’s bugging us or how difficult things get, we have each other…and Pitch Perfect.

As you walk on by

Will you call my name?

As you walk on by

Will you call my name?

When you walk away

3. ‘Mr. Jones’ by Counting Crows…

…and Adam Duritz, because we’re all just doing our best to fit in, get along and find our way.

We all want to be big stars, but we don’t know why

and we don’t know how

But when everybody loves me, I’m going to be just

about as happy as I can be

4. ‘Torn’ by Natalie Imbruglia

A gentle reminder that in the moment, heartbreak is real and all-consuming. Eventually it moves to the past, but it’s OK to honor it.

I’m all out of faith

This is how I feel

I’m cold and I am shamed

Lying naked on the floor

Illusion never changed

Into something real

I’m wide awake and I can see

The perfect sky is torn

You’re a little late

5. ‘Don’t Speak’ by No Doubt

This is the anthem for letting the feels happen. Squashing tween emotions because I’m not one isn’t fair.

Don’t speak

I know what you’re thinking

And I don’t need your reasons

Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts

Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts

6. ‘Right Here, Right Now’ by Jesus Jones

Getting hung up on where I’ve been or where time is going just steals this moment.

Right here, right now

There is no other place I want to be

Right here, right now

Watching the world wake up from history

7. ‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran

I wonder sometimes if the songs that the girls love today will be as evocative for them when they parent. Will they look tenderly at their kids as they hear stories of bullying or mean girls and hear Katy Perry’s “Roar”?

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter dancing through the fire

‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar

Louder, louder than a lion

‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!

Will they be inspired to crank angry songs to deal with their cranky, old mom? I honestly have no idea. I just know that I am going to need to be able to bust out a fierce Ed Sheeran “Thinking Out Loud” riff to neutralize the inevitable dance between this mom in her 40s and these girls of mine.

Maybe it’s all part of a plan

Well, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes

Hoping that you’ll understand

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