Children Will Watch as Well as Listen


Lawn Mower

At a garage sale recently, my daughter and I bought some records to add to our dusty collection. While we compiled the new purchases with our old records, my family had a heck of a time controlling their laughter as we counted how many Barbra Streisand albums I own. I don’t care. I have listened to Barbra Streisand for at least 45 years. I have always enjoyed her voice, her sentiments are clear, and her songs inspiring.

I can't remember exactly when I first heard Barbra Streisand’s “Carefully Taught/Children Will Listen”— a mash-up of Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s “Carefully Taught” from South Pacific and Stephen Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods — but I know it was when our daughter was a little girl. I’d totally forgotten about “Children Will Listen” until recently when I was listening to Barbra's album Barbra Streisand Live in Concert 2006 while push-mowing our lawn — hopefully for the last time before winter sets in. Slight digression: I enjoy the sound of the blades swishing in and out of the music I’m listening to. And the physical energy and connection with the earth while push-mowing is lovely. In its outdated simplicity, such mowing reminds me that progress (gas mower) isn't always so progressive.

Anyhow, I put in my earbuds and started to listen to Barbra Streisand Live in Concert 2006. On the second track of the album, in “Jason’s Theme,” she speaks about the importance of actively parenting children over her son Jason’s instrumentals. The music is gentle and her sentiments about parenting are rich and full of wisdom. Then seamlessly, the track turns over to “Carefully Taught/Children Will Listen.” The words in this song are exactly what I look for in my music — wise, encouraging, and uplifting.

The points of the song that stand out for me are that children are sponges as well as lie detectors; they will watch your actions while they listen to your words. If there is a disconnect between thought and action, they will believe action over thought, and their memories of us long after we are gone will be the combination of both thought and action.

Here are my favorite lines: “What do you leave to your child when you're dead? Only whatever you put in its head.” And "Guide them but step away. Children will glisten." (Not a typo.)

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