My 11-year-old is taking the death of XXXTentacion pretty hard. For the uninitiated, X is a 20-year-old rapper who was killed in broad daylight on Monday. X is famous for his depressing lyrics and his violent rap sheet. Not a fan, personally. But my son has been moving through stages of grief all week, where denial (“He’s not really dead”) and blame (“It’s Drake’s fault, he ordered the hit”) are giving way to acceptance pretty quickly.

Today, he played Changes, from X’s new album ? (that’s the title) and Legends, by a rapper named Juice WRLD (released on Tuesday about X’s death and Lil Peep’s suicide) for me to listen to. Neither are really my taste but I could see that they are helping my son grieve. The songs are lamentations about pain and loss, and sitting with that pain to try to understand it.

It hadn’t occurred to me until then how important it is for kids to have art that expresses sadness. While visual art therapy is used to help traumatized kids, children’s music is very sanitized, either happy or didactic. As kids get older, they want to consume adult music and gravitate toward their own interests, typically music that is popular with their peers. Parents try to shield their kids from explicit lyrics and even whole genres, depending on their values. My children, for example, are unlikely to ever hear New Country in our house.

Just because we are shielding our kids from influences we don’t want them to have doesn’t mean they aren’t curious about it. When they find the things they like, they’ll find ways to learn more about it. We need to ask ourselves as parents why they gravitate toward the music and artists they like.

X is a problem. He’s violent toward women in real life. In his music, he blames women for his problems, and threatens to commit suicide to get what he wants. On the flip side, his lyrics address depression and mental illness to a degree I’ve never heard before. He makes Morrissey sound happy. I’m thinking a lot about why my son might want to hear about these issues.

In the interest of my son’s privacy, I’m not going to muse publicly about my theories. I am going to try harder to understand why my kids like what they like, and offer more ways to help them process their feelings. Even if that means I have to listen to XXXTentacion.

I write, parent, arbitrate, not necessarily in that order. Please subscribe to my newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/AndreaLD

I write, parent, arbitrate, not necessarily in that order. Please subscribe to my newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/AndreaLD