Saying No to My Kids Music Requests

Being a parent might also mean being a chauffeur, but this dad won’t be a “DJ,” too.

At some point in time, between the departure of Hannah Montana and the arrival of Miley Cyrus, my kids got the mistaken impression that I am their DJ.

The ignition switch hasn’t even been turned when listener requests start pouring in from the rear of the car.

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“Put on Q102.”

“Change that!”

“Go back!”

It’s bad enough simultaneously playing the roles of taxi driver and referee, but adding DJ to the mix is where I draw the line. Parenthood involves many sacrifices—chief among them a good night’s sleep and quiet car rides. But it doesn’t mean giving up Johnny Cash for Katy Perry.

When carpooling, my kids’ friends find it completely foreign that their radio requests are swiftly and unequivocally denied. I steal a glance through the rearview mirror and see their puzzled faces. Perhaps it’s because they’ve yet to hear the word “no” from their parents during the course of their entitled lives, or maybe those parents are just far hipper than me, singing along to Pitbull at the red light. 

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I’m a few decades older than my kids, though, so it stands to reason that my taste in music lags behind by a few decades, too. Truth be told, I’m just discovering the 2000s right now. 

When I was one of a dozen or so kids packed into the back of a station wagon in the 1980s, I don’t recall our parents catering to our musical stylings. Mom was the easy-listening type, exposing us to an ongoing cycle of Rod Stewart, Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston. To this day, I can’t hear “Total Eclipse of the Heart” without thinking I’m on the way to a dentist appointment. (Thanks, Bonnie Tyler.)

If Dad was behind the wheel, chances are the tape deck had Bill Haley or Glenn Miller playing. Like it or not, such trips were an unintended musical education, subjecting us to artists and songs we’d never voluntarily seek out at that age. Not much different than the way a liberal arts education works, I suppose—which is why I take my role of musical educator of today’s youth very seriously.

Trapped in the car, my kids are prisoners to their old man’s jukebox. Should the hapless guests in the backseat complain too much, I reach for the radio dial. Raising their hopes, I deflate them by stopping at the first Hall & Oates song I can find. While I don’t think they’re particularly good, they are from Philadelphia, so the kids should know them. 

The Rolling Stones inevitably follow, rewarding our patience with a valuable piece of advice for the chirping peanut gallery in the backseat: “You can’t always get what you want …”

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Michael T. Dolan is a writer and Pink Floyd fan from West Chester. Visit his website at

illustration by dewey saunders

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