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This is gonna end sappy.

The great loves of my life are Jax, words, trees, and music. There is a lot of overlap: I take a walk on my lunch break with my earbuds in. Jax and I read books together every day. I hike through state parks writing poems in my head. One of the best overlaps has been Jax’s burgeoning love of music.

Many parents have a cute story about the first time their babies smile at a song, or the first time they find them shaking their tiny booties to a tune on a TV commercial. Saved on my phone, hopefully forever, is a vid of barely-2 Jax dancing with reckless abandon to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song…until he saw me with my phone and ran away. It made me momentarily sad that my son was already capable of feeling self-conscious. I never want him to feel self-conscious, probably because I feel that way all the time.

I’ve written before about Jax’s emotional response to music, but now that he’s older, he’s much more curious. Imagine this grungy mama’s pride the first time I caught rearview sight of him bopping furiously from his car seat to Queens of the Stone Age, or saying, “Turn it up mommy!” when Spotify shuffles to Pearl Jam.

One day, randomly, he said, “Rock and roll is my favorite!” Another time, a teacher asked him what kind of music he likes and he said, “Loud.” You get it honest, baby.

When the weather turned crappy and we dialed the clocks back an hour, it meant we lost warmth and daylight for our after-dinner walk. You know I need my steps, and little man could use one more power shot of physical activity before winding down for the night, so I have instituted 15-minute dance parties every evening. This is our new favorite thing.

We don’t listen to kid music–that is to say, those albums of pop songs re-done by children. I can’t do it. We listen to mom’s music, anything un-stuck from a parental advisory label, and some songs from his favorite movies’ soundtracks that I downloaded specifically for him. Our playlist includes:

“Feel Good” by Gorillaz (or as Jax calls it, “don’t stop get it get it”)

“All My Life” by Foo Fighters (Jax: “that Food Fighters song”)

“I Only Want You” by Eagles of Death Metal (Jax: “the want you song”)

“Real Gone” by Sheryl Crowe, off the Cars soundtrack (Jax: “the Cars song mommy PLEEEEAAASE play it again!”

“Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root, off the first Ice Age soundtrack (Jax: “on my way on my way”)

“More Human Than Human” by White Zombie, off the Planes soundtrack (Jax: “the Planes song”)

We have different moves for each song. Because life is unfair but we do most anything for our kids, I have known all the words to the Cars song for at least a year now. We hold hands and march around while I sing it to him. There is a healthy amount of booty-shaking to “Feel Good.” We jump to “I Only Want You.” He makes me chase him around the coffee table for the entirety of the Planes song, and he stops occasionally to head bang, which is cute on an epic level. I am always sweaty and tired after our dance parties, and Jax always begs for one more song (he’s going to be great to take to Pearl Jam shows in a few years).

My parents gave Jax the fifth Ice Age movie for his birthday. At the very end of the movie, there’s a song called “My Superstar” by Jessie J. It’s catchy as hell, but it wasn’t until Jax asked me to put it on our playlist that I really heard the lyrics: You, you make me happy, you keep me laughing, you make my world a better place…you, you are my rainbow, you color my days so bright, I wanna stay forever with my superstar, my superstar, you shine so bright into my heart…

I was singing it on one end of the living room when punkin raced over to me from the other end and buried his face in my side, bear-hugging my leg. I knelt down and he put his arms around my neck and kissed my cheek. “Will you pick me up?” he asked. I picked him up and we hopped around together, upgrading my quick cardio blast with a 40-lb dead lift. Jax had tears in his eyes. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “Mom I love this song.” My turn for tears because silly as it is, this song is exactly how I feel about that little man (look, I warned you about the sap). I felt this blast of gratitude and heart swell. I told him it was our song, and he was my superstar, and we danced it out.

There are many songs I associate with Jax, for various reasons. The song playing on the radio when I finally got to drive him home from the hospital was The Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the Music.” I used to sing Pearl Jam’s “Smile” to him when I’d leave NICU (I miss you already, I miss you always), and “Sirens” has this line that has always made me think of how Jax changed my life: I didn’t care before you were here, I danced in laughter with the ever-after… But now we have this song that we share, and it’s not one I pushed on him, not one he heard in my car a dozen times before asking me to put in on our dance playlist. It’s one we found together, and we both had a strong emotional response to it.

Rock out with your heart out, I always say.

We’re always looking for songs to add to our playlist. Got any suggestions for us? (Please make suggestions. I’ve had “More Human Than Human” stuck in my head for going on a month.)

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