The year was 1990, and I desperately tried to convince my mom that I listened to rap music for the beat and not the inappropriate words. But when she heard Vanilla Ice rap about an 8-ball she was like, “Not today, Mr. Ice,” and she threw my prized cassette of To the Extreme in the trash.
I had zero idea of what an 8-ball was at 10 years old. I thought it was that magical plastic toy you shook after asking, “Will I ever meet Luke Perry?” only to be annoyed you didn’t get the answer you wanted so you asked again until “It is certain” appeared in the window.
Maybe when she took away Vanilla Ice she unknowingly sealed my fate to seek out the most explicit lyrics I could find. Isn’t that the irony of trying to wield control in parenthood — that it somehow backfires in the biggest way? Three years later, Dr. Dre’s Chronic album rattled my suburban walls at all hours of the day and night. It made Vanilla Ice sound like a choir boy, not to mention that the picture on the CD was a giant pot leaf.
I’m sure my poor parents heard all sorts of curse words and wondered, jeepers, what is our daughter listening too? But it’s not like I went to school and called my teacher a beotch or anything. I knew perfectly well the words I sang along to were not okay for me to use in the real world.
It only took me thirty years to understand my mom’s perspective.
As my firstborn learned to read, she’d see [“Explicit]” come up on the radio’s screen from the backseat and call out, “This one’s explosive,” prompting me to press next. As cute as this was, she was right. Bad words felt explosive. I was lighting a stick of dynamite and blowing up my kid’s innocence. But at the same time, they didn’t understand why the curse words were bad, and so it went right over their heads. How damaging could it be?
As my kids got older I stopped trying to manually mute the curse words like when Gwen Stefani sang, “This shit is bananas!” Instead, I tried to censor the song myself by loudly singing shhhhh instead of shit. But my kids weren’t having it, complaining that I was ruining the song. Their exasperated sighs quickly wore me down – and besides, I was totally butchering the song. This was their way of telling me they were old enough to handle more mature content even though I was in denial that they weren’t babies anymore. One moment you’re driving around listening to the Frozen 2 soundtrack for the 2,347th time and the next the kids are blasting Snoop D. O. Double G.
So what kind of mom lets her kids listen to explicit song lyrics? The kind of mom who is prepping herself for the moment she has to allow the bigger freedoms by slowly letting them experience smaller ones.
I’ve learned that trying to keep them sheltered is only going to make the appeal even stronger whether it’s music, movies, or the internet. Learning how to check yo self before you wreck yo self is one of the most important life lessons that Ice Cube taught me and I’m passing that on to my kids. I’m proof that hearing an F-bomb here or there is not going to traumatize them.
Looking back on my experience, I understand my mom’s concerns that inappropriate song lyrics would send me down the wrong path, but ultimately I turned out fine and know exactly when to access my salty vocabulary and when to act like a respectable adult. I’d say she owes a shout-out to 2Pac and Biggie for teaching me that.
I hope one day my kids realize that when I was tightly controlling the musical selections, I didn’t want to hide anything from them, I just wanted to make sure they were ready for the next stage and that if they were going to listen to explicit music then who better to lead the way than their O.G. Mama?
Jewel Nunez is the humorist behind One Funny Mummy where she writes about the good, the bad, and the insanity of momlife. She lives on The Central Coast in California with her husband and two young daughters. Jewel released her first book, What It Means To Be a Mom, in 2021 and is currently working on a collection of essays about the lessons learned in the first year of motherhood. Find her at onefunnymummy.com and on social media @onefunnymummy