I introduced my children to the music of The Beatles recently – but, in more depth, not just a listen and singalong. We had eschewed the international school path and opted for local school. But, with the pressures of local school life in Hong Kong, piles of homework daily and regular school tests, the challenges of subjects with a Chinese medium of instruction and extracurricular activities on top, the day-to-day grind can seem endless. I wanted to make a point and say that the kids should always be able to voice their concerns and anxieties to their parents and never bottle things up – and not end up like the girl who left home in “She’s Leaving Home” from The Beatles album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
With my nine-year-old daughter, we went through the song and the lyrics (my six-year-old son listening intently, but perhaps not catching on as quickly). At first, the words made no sense to her as she was confused by the overlapping melodic and lyrical lines. But once I showed her how to follow and listen to the lines and voices separately, she got it. And, as I explained the implicit story underlying the song, she teared up as she listened (as do I whenever I listen to this song!).
The parents in the story were convinced that they had sacrificed so much and done everything they could for their daughter; yet they didn’t understand what they had failed to provide that drove their daughter to leave home, to feel free outside the home and away from her family. In particular, I wanted my daughter, as a pre-teen, to understand the different perspectives of parent and child and to see that the failure to communicate was what created the mismatch in expectations and perceptions.
We talked and we sang and the three of us took on different voices to sing with overlapping lines and harmonies – admittedly, nothing that would catch the attention of Simon Cowell! And my daughter promised to always communicate and not bottle up her troubles inside.
Thanks to the power of YouTube, my children then proceeded to search for and listen to every Beatles song they could find – and, as only the sponge-like brains of kids can do, they quickly absorbed the lyrics and melodies. Of course, some of the songs had harder lyrics to explain, but that’s another story!
Now both my kids claim to be avid “Beatles fans”. And that is their excuse for bursting into song just about any time, any place – while doing homework, while on a bus, or while walking along the street, a tennis racquet often being a handy guitar. “I wanna hold your haa-aaa-aaand!” when we are crossing the roads; “It’s been a hard day’s night!” when facing a pile of homework; and “Can’t buy me looooooo-ove!” when being told off; or, more randomly, bursting out with the lyrics to “Hey Bulldog” on the MTR train…
All that random singing in public from my kids has me thinking of another Beatles lyric: “Maybe I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday… Now I need a place to hide away, Oh, I believe in yesterday…”
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This article first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.