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What David Bowie taught me about being a parent

Today we learned that one of my musical heroes, David Bowie, has passed away. Like so many people, I grew up listening to him. He taught me that it’s OK to be a bit weird, in fact it’s bloody great to be a little freaky. But recently he taught me something about parenting too. Yes, really.

Adam was playing the song Kooks (about his son Duncan off the album Hunky Dory) in the car one day, and whilst listening to it I realised that something which had been worrying me was utterly unimportant. And that instead of worrying about him, I needed to show my son that I really believed in him.

Earlier that week I’d been in to see my son’s teacher about his reading. See, Arthur was just about on target, but only just. He is a summer baby so whilst some of his 5 year old classmates were writing and reading nicely he, at just 4, was a bit slower to catch on. This shocked me as in our family he is perceived to be really bright, so I just assumed he’d be quick to read. She also said his vocabulary was super and that he was extremely creative. That she wasn’t worried, and that I should chill.

I left the meeting feeling better. But still I needed something more to remind me that life wasn’t about hitting targets and achieving A grades. I, of all people, should know that. I was a rebel. A bright rebel who bunked off Catholic school regularly and wasn’t allowed back into 6th form I was so naughty. And I turned out OK (arguable). My husband was the same, a wild child. And he has a great career now, a seriously great one. (And also he’s an absolute diamond.)
You’d think we’d know better than to panic about such irrelevant things. But he’s our first child to start school – and we just got wrapped up in the anxiety of achievement.
Anyway, the song… I’d heard it before, loads of times, but with the recent worries fresh in my mind it took on a new significance. It’s about how important family is, and how your mum and dad will always BELIEVE IN YOU, no matter what. I started to well up listening to it. All that matters, the song seems to say, is that you are loved and that you are happy. He talks about buying him a set of rules on how to deal with people who pick on him. These are the things that are important. Teaching kids to say ‘F*CK YOU’ (maybe not literally) to anyone who thinks they are anything other than awesome. To believe in themselves.
The lyrics of Kooks that grabbed me and shook me the most were in the last verse:
“…And if the homework brings you down
Then we’ll throw it on the fire
And take the car downtown”
This is the right attitude, one that I really needed to hear – and actually something that echoed Arthur’s brilliant teacher earlier that week. She told me to stop trying to being a teacher at home, to leave the reading books for a while, and to simply encourage him to enjoy reading again by letting him choose the books and reading to him.
In an increasingly competitive world our young people need to know how important it is to stand out, to be yourself, to be a freak – because that’s what will get you far in life, not being a straight A robot with no personality. I have always believed this and I needed to be reminded.
David Bowie personified charisma. And charisma is what will get you places. So why don’t we throw our kids’ homework on the fire every now and then and take them on a late night star spotting walk, blast out some rock music whilst drinking hot chocolate, or take them out to paddle in a stream instead? It didn’t do his kid any harm (Duncan, who the song is about, is now a top film director) and I don’t think it will do ours any either. Quite the opposite.
Life is for living. RIP David Bowie.
Here are the lyrics in full:
“Will you stay in our Lovers’ Story
If you stay you won’t be sorry
‘Cause we believe in you
Soon you’ll grow so take a chance
With a couple of Kooks
Hung up on romancing
We bought a lot of things
to keep you warm and dry
And a funny old crib on which the paint won’t dry
I bought you a pair of shoes
A trumpet you can blow
And a book of rules
On what to say to people
when they pick on you
‘Cause if you stay with us you’re gonna be pretty Kookie too
And if you ever have to go to school
Remember how they messed up
this old fool
Don’t pick fights with the bullies
or the cads
‘Cause I’m not much cop at punching other people’s Dads
And if the homework brings you down
Then we’ll throw it on the fire
And take the car downtown”



  1. Anonymous
    January 11, 2016 / 1:06 pm

    Love it Rachel, so true. David Bowie was so much more than a musician!
    Rest in Peace

  2. January 18, 2016 / 4:05 pm

    Actual genius wasn't he, the real deal X

  3. January 26, 2016 / 7:18 pm

    Great blog Rachel. Spot on. I really love this song too. Have listened to it loads since DB died and thought about what you said about it. Xx

  4. January 27, 2016 / 9:49 am

    Ah thanks Charlotte! It's a great reminder about what is important. 'Cause we believe in you!" It always gives me goosebumps thinking about that line. We since have discovered he is probably dyslexic, so more than ever we need to show him that we believe in him completely XX

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