To a young kid a birthday means everything. On your special day, you are instantly taller, stronger, faster and most importantly — much cooler than you were even just a few hours ago. As a parent, I believe it means that you are learning more — both of what you want for them and what you don’t. Perhaps it’s a mixture of steering away from your own mistakes and guiding them towards the safe world they deserve.

Ever since my oldest guy could grasp the concept of what a song was, deciding what we will listen to has always been an important decision. At any age, you can get significantly moved by the emotion of music. With that in mind, here are the six songs I am laying out for him.

Dear Biggest Little Dude,

These are for you…

“Believer” by: Imagine Dragons

Mostly because you love it. Right now, our typical weekend schedule looks like this — hockey, football, soccer, more hockey, then when you are done playing, we watch football. Before each activity starts you have me put on your playlist in the car on our way to the field/rink. You often ask for “Believer” to kick things off. You love the drum intro and often play along to the beat by hitting your legs. I love “Believer” for the message it sends. “Don’t you tell me what you think that I can be. I’m the one at the sail, I’m the master of my sea.” To me, this song holds a double meaning where you are encouraged to be yourself and believe in yourself. On the flip-side, you son, make me a believer. If I am going to preach an attitude to you, well then, I sure as hell better embody it myself. “Last things last, by the grace of the fire and the flames. You’re the face of the future, the blood in my veins.”

Yes, you are the face of the future and may you always be the master of your sea.

“Promise” by: Slash and Chris Cornell

This song is like the chapter two to “Believer”. Part of navigating your own path is overcoming the hurdles thrown your way. Taking them on, and at times, accepting and embracing that things ain’t always easy. This is a song Chris Cornell penned for his young son. Each time I listen to it I hear Papa in my head saying these same words to me.

“Now the cruel world it’s gonna try and change you
Try to hang you up and mess with your pride
Now the rich just try to chain you
You got to keep your fire burning inside

Promise me
You won’t let them put out your fire
Now sometimes the world tries to slap you
And it seems to love watching you fall
I won’t lie to you, it’s gonna happen
You got to pick yourself up and move on.”

It all starts from and thrives off that fire that you undoubtedly have. (By the way, you are not supposed to use or write the word “ain’t”)

“Beautiful Boy” by: John Lennon

This is the song that welcomed you into the world. The first song you ever heard. It may mean more to me than it does to you because you made me a dad. The song starts with the line, “Close your eyes, have no fear. The monster’s gone, he’s on the run and your daddy’s here.” The ironic thing is, it was you that was here.

Each night before you go to sleep, we say a little prayer. And … “Every day in every way, it’s getting better and better.”

“Magical Mystery Tour” by: The Beatles, remade by Eddie Vedder for Beat Bugs

Every Friday night at our house means two things: Pizza and Beat Bugs “movie night.” It’s amazing how this show sparks your fascination while casually throwing in Beatles music education. It’s a brilliant program that I am forever indebted to. But aside from all that — you are six! Don’t get as deep and intense as me about this stuff yet. Have fun, jump on the couch, run around in the mud, sing all the wrong words in the backseat of the car, have sugar with your sugar, and just do what six-year-olds do. That’s what is also so great about Beat Bugs. You don’t even realize you are getting the Beatles injected into you because you get mesmerized by the animation and childlike fairy-tale of the content. Regardless of the original meaning, “Magical Mystery Tour” in the Beat Bugs format is perfect because it emphasizes using your imagination. And you my dude, have such an incredible imagination. May you always hold on to that. And there is nothing wrong with preserving its youthful form. After all, for all of us, this is just one big magical mystery tour.

“Isn’t She Lovely” by: Stevie Wonder

This is actually the first song your little sister heard upon entering the world. Being the oldest child, your sister and brothers will always look up to you, as you are the first to jump into each growing-up experience. Do not take this as a pressure. It is a blessing and a privilege. In the big picture, you only have three responsibilities here: 1- always be true to yourself, 2- have an open mind, and most importantly — ALWAYS treat your sister with the utmost respect. Remember, how you treat her will be the minimum requirement — from your peers and hers. Know that the reason your little sister and I sing this song each night is because it’s true.

“With My Own Two Hands” by: Ben Harper

The first line of this song, “I can change the world, with my own two hands,” is actually the result of its overall call to action. It starts at the end. What follows shows you how you can achieve this:

“Make a better place, with my own two hands
Make a kinder place, with my own two hands
With my own, with my own two hands

I can make peace on earth, with my own two hands
And I can clean up the earth, with my own two hands
And I can reach out to you, with my own two hands
With my own, with my own two hands.”

No matter what words are used or how you describe it, the theme aligns to these four letters — G.I.V.E. The more you give the more you will earn. Be generous with your gifts. Then, watch how your perspectives change and your own dreams come true. Lend a hand. And you can start right now. If you see the new kid or someone who is visually different eating lunch in the cafeteria by themselves, pull up a chair and join them. If you’re riding bikes in a pack and one of your friends gets a flat tire, get off your bike and walk it along side of him or her while the others take off. Remember, nobody is entitled to anything except a chance. You can go fast alone, but you go far by going together.

All original artwork featured by: Scott Soeder

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