What country music taught my kids about hookers, wife beaters and Jose Cuervo.

by Alison Bonaguro
(as seen in Country Music Today, September 2004)


The question was bound to come up. After a few weeks on the radio, my kids knew "Three Wooden Crosses" by heart. So naturally, my 5-year-old asked me what a hooker was. I gave her what I thought was a good answer: that a hooker is lady that goes on a lot of dates. "Can I be a hooker when I grow up?" she asked. Absolutely not. But I said she could feel free to choose from any of the other career choices Randy Travis sings about, like a farmer, a teacher or a preacher.

But the curiosity didn't stop there. After seeing the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl" video, my 7-year-old wanted to know what a restraining order was. As in, "Earl walked right through that restraining order and put her in intensive care."  I told him it might be another word for a revolving door. "But then why'd Mary Ann and Wanda say that Earl had to die?" he asked. Oh, that. So I explained that there are some men who hit their wives, and it's against the law. Which only made him question why Earl didn't just go to jail instead of being stuffed in the trunk. Before I could answer, he figured it out himself. "I'll bet the jails were overcrowded," he said.

By now, though, all my kids have listened to enough country music to know who Jose Cuervo is. When we listened to Tracy Byrd's "Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo," it sounded like Jose might just be Tracy's dance partner. So I went with that. Then Tim McGraw started singing about how Cuervo goes down nice and slow. And Toby Keith told us his "Whiskey Girl" doesn't like Cuervo Gold Margaritas. I had to explain that Jose Cuervo was a kind of tequila. Then I thought we'd get into a deep say-no-to-alcohol-drugs-and-sex discussion. But the kids? They just wanted to know how you get a drink named after yourself.

Six life lessons, country style.

Not everything my kids have learned is bad. In fact, some country music is downright educational:

Alan Jackson's "Its 5:00 Somewhere" is a lesson about geography and time zones. So your kids will know that when it's bedtime in Oklahoma, it could very well be cocktail hour in Honolulu.

Tim McGraw's "Hard on the Ticker" opens up a dialogue on cardiovascular health by avoiding things like Domino's delivery, whiskey sours and apple pies.

Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman" explains retailing by highlighting the fact that Victoria's Secret's stuff is real nice but you can find the same damn thing on a Walmart shelf half-price.

Chris Cagle's "Beautiful Day" teaches kids about the number of days in a week, month, year and ultimately, a pregnancy.

Terri Clark's "I Wanna Do it All" gives kids a look at what makes America great, like Niagara Falls, the Yankees and Mardi Gras. The part about fighting city hall is good for extra credit in government studies.

Brooks & Dunn's "My Heart is Lost to You" infuses a little Spanish lesson into a child's day when Ronnie sings "mi corazon perdido en ti." So they'll be bilingual and romantic.