Click Photo for Full Story (and to Hear the Music) // Excerpt Below
“Willy Was a Whale” is the kind of head-bopping, silly-clever song that is a staple of the kiddie rock movement. It comes complete with a hand motion — throw arms up to form a big W with your head — for the tots in the mosh pit up front at concerts, and a little joke — Willy walks “all the way down to Weno, Nevada” — for the parents who buy the tickets. Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players do “Willy” at pretty much every show: it’s their “Born to Run.”
But when you listen to “Willy” on the CD “Yellow Bus” — the second of seven children’s albums recorded by Mr. Roberts — the song that follows it is a bit jarring. “Mama is sad and I know that/she’s taken off her ring,” it begins. The child in the song tries to cheer Mama by offering toys — “I give her my Lego blocks to play/but the blocks won’t fit together today” — and, ultimately, himself: “I give her my heart and I don’t want it back.” It’s pretty much impossible to listen to without crying.
When he wrote “Mama Is Sad,” strumming a guitar outside on a sunny day, “I was laughing because I was like, ‘Nobody writes a kid’s song that’s so sad and depressing,’ ” Mr. Roberts recalled in an interview earlier this month.
“As adults we like to think kids live in this fantasy world of innocents,” he added. “But I watch kids really respond to their environment. The idea that a kid would see their mother or father was sad about something and try to fix it was very real.”
“He gets into the entire spectrum of the kids’ experience — it’s not just everything is awesome, because everything is not awesome all the time” (Bill Childs). The church can learn from Justin's example. Yes, our children need to know that God loves them and wants only good things for them, but we need to be careful not to focus so much on the “awesome” elements of the Christian life that we make sadness and hardship a separate thing entirely. Kids need to know that Jesus wants to be their friend — the kind of friend in whom you can confide and to whom you can cry, not just a friend who’s fun to hang out with on Sunday mornings. -- Sarah