Last year, one of the highlights of my summer was the day that Disney released “Hamilton” on Disney+. For a long time, I was determined to see the play in person, but when the whole world shut down due to COVID-19, I thought, “Well, why not spoil it for myself?” I was watching it on TV when I noticed that my then-7-year-old son, Rami, had snuck into the room behind me.
At first, I was uncomfortable with the idea of him watching. As you probably know, “Hamilton” tells the story of the Founding Fathers through rap and hip-hop. I worried the content might not be appropriate for Rami. The characters rap about infidelity, use curse words, and even mention sex. But then I realized I could use this as a teaching moment. Instead of sending Rami away, I invited him to watch with me. I explained the history to him and made sure he focused on the bigger lessons the play taught about independence, fighting for your rights, and having high standards for your life.
The underlying message of “Hamilton’’ is that you can always do more and be more, and that really resonated with Rami. “Hamilton” became his thing. Ever since, he’s been obsessed with the American Revolution and the stories of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington! We went down the rabbit hole together, watching historical documentaries about the Revolutionary War (PBS has a great series called “The American Experience”), reading books about the Founding Fathers, and even exploring a Scholastic encyclopedia for kids about the American Revolution.
It has been really fun to see Rami discover himself through “Hamilton” and the character of Hamilton specifically. He sleeps with a Hamilton pillow and considers the Founding Father a role model. Hamilton was a relentlessly hard worker and went after the things he wanted with his entire heart. When Rami is feeling fed up with his schoolwork and says, “I give up!” all I have to do is ask, “Do you think Hamilton would have quit that quickly?” and he’ll put his nose back to the grindstone.
My daughter Hanna doesn’t “get” “Hamilton” the same way Rami does, but she loves the music. When I explained the plot to her, she got really excited about the idea of the U.S. breaking away from Great Britain and decided King George was a funny, crazy man. Today, our whole family listens to the “Hamilton” soundtrack on long car rides and sings along with every word.
Looking back, I’m glad I agreed to let Rami watch “Hamilton” with me. If you have young kids and are worried about the play being inappropriate, I’d suggest giving it a try with them this Fourth of July. As long as you talk them through it and help them focus on the history, you’ll be able to share the lessons of our Founding Fathers in a safe, fun way that might inspire them.