“Music, literature and film can be incredibly comforting and nourishing,” says Elliot Perlman. “If you can give your kids a love for the arts, plus love from you and a strong feeling of security, well, you’re doing a tremendous job as a parent, right there. And I think that’s something that most of us can do.”
It’s not an unrealistic expectation and the Melbourne novelist is determined to pull it off. In the process, he’s hoping that his two young sons – aged three and four – grow up to love books, music and film as much as he does.
To try and inculcate his kids with this passion, Ellliot and his wife have read to them since birth and always endeavoured to make bedtime stories a lot of fun. “Now they almost never want to go to sleep,” he admits. “They want to delay that moment as long as possible with stories.”
Elliot has also enjoyed particular success in getting his boys into music. As a self-described “failed musician” who played the guitar in university bands, he’s already passed on this enthusiasm.
Part of this process is the daily drive to kindergarten. During this trip, Elliot will play his sons a song and ask them to make a joint call on whether it merits inclusion on the boys’ playlist. “They both have to agree the song is worthy, so it has to be pretty good,” he says. “It’s now got to the point where there can even be a meltdown in the car if one of the kids feels the other is choosing more songs than he is.”
Another tactic that Elliot’s stumbled upon involves changing the lyrics to adult songs to make them more child-friendly.
“So there’s a Steely Dan song about a famous drug dealer called Kid Charlemagne,” he says. “We’ve changed this to being about two brothers who woke up one morning to find the friends they’ve had over have left the place in a mess. Now they have to clean up the house in time to get to kinder and it’s stressing them out. They have to get along to get it all done.”
To encourage deeper engagement, Elliot will even highlight specific instruments in a track. “I’ll say: ‘Listen! I think the drums are about to come back in. Then the kids will start tapping out a rhythm and destroying the car. They love the drum opening to a song by The National called Bloodbuzz Ohio.”
Music is also on the agenda at home. Elliot has a guitar and two smaller ones for his sons, plus “a lot of annoying percussion”. Impromptu household concerts happen regularly. “So music is already a very big, very big deal in their lives. They’re obsessed with music. They love it so much.”
For the moment, it’s all about having fun and tapping into a shared passion. But underlying this lies a deeper notion about the value of literature, music and film.
“I want to give my kids an interest into the many strands that go into the makeup of a human being,” Elliot explains. “And those strands can be examined, explored and enjoyed through the arts.
“If you have a love of the arts, you never have to feel entirely alone.”
Elliot Perlman’s new novel, Maybe the Horse Will Talk, is out now.