Lessons From Prince That Have Helped Me as a Special Needs Parent

This afternoon I called my mother and I told her that I finally understood how she felt the day that Elvis died. Like many Gen X’ers, Prince was a huge part of the soundtrack that has thus far made up my life. Like Elvis, Prince was sexual, controversial, and he also had the moves. But unlike Elvis, Prince also sang about “the moves,” and he did it in a way that was completely in your face and unapologetic.

The first time I heard Prince, I was 12 years old and attending the 13th birthday party of my older cousin. One of her gifts was a 45 speed record and on it was “Little Red Corvette.” I remember my aunt saying, “Ohhh, Prince,” as she took it out of the sleeve and placed it on the record player. Soon after, a soft base groove came through the three-foot-tall speakers, along with a voice that could best be described as haunting — and from that moment on I was hooked on Prince.

In 1984, “Purple Rain” hit the theaters. I was 14 years old and I felt like a rebel when two of my girlfriends and I were able to buy tickets at the local movie theater without being accompanied by an adult. We were starstruck; and I think it was that same night when I finally realized that “Little Red Corvette” was not actually a song about a car. These were the days before the Internet, when cable TV was relatively new and MTV actually played videos. And it was through his lyrics, music and videos that Prince provided our generation with a musical form of sex education that only left us wanting for more. He was not afraid of controversy. He embraced it and shoved it into your face like a true rock star. But he did it in the most authentic and honest way I had ever seen. He was actually genuine about it.

Even when the vice president’s wife was enraged about the explicit lyrics on the “Purple Rain” soundtrack, he remained true to his art and to himself. Yes, for me and many others of my generation, Prince is a huge part of the soundtrack of our lives including: every junior high and high school dance, the nightclubs and bars we frequented during our college years, and even our wedding receptions. If there was a party, one thing was for certain: My friends and I could always be found dancing to “1999,” “Cream,” “Controversy,” “Get Off,” “Baby, I’m a Star,” “Delirious,” “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Hot Thing.”

From Prince, I learned not to dwell on what others might think about me, the choices I made, and most importantly to always be genuine and true to myself. These lessons have served me well in my adult years — especially throughout my journey of being a parent of children who live with hearing loss and chronic illness.

Yes, Prince’s music has been a huge part of the soundtrack of the parties throughout our lives, but as he sang: “Life is just a party, and parties aren’t meant to last.”

I am just so grateful that I was invited to the party.

Thank you, Prince. Rest in peace.

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