Saturday, May 28, 2016

On the Homefront: Exercising Parental Control


My daughter turned seven last weekend. In those few short years she has given my wife and I plenty of enjoyable memories to reflect upon in quiet moments...and of course a handful of memories with which to embarrass her once she starts dating in 30 years. I'm sure as this regular contribution continues, you'll read about some of them.

Most recently, my wife and I have watched our first-grader develop an affinity for pop music. Contemporary stars like Megan Trainor and Taylor Swift, Disney Channel stuff from some of the more recent TV shows, and somehow, Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani.
In the week leading up to her birthday, our growing-up-too-fast diva spent her evenings convincing my wife to let her watch "classic" Britney Spears videos like, "Oops! I Did It Again."
Sure enough, one of the CDs she received from my mom for her birthday was a greatest hits collection of the former Mouseketeer. Spears through the years, if you will.
Like most people at some time since they earned their license, I've driven down a road with the windows open blaring a tune that for whatever reason struck a chord in me at that particular time. You know the scene in "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" when they rock out to "Hold On!" by Wilson Philips? Just like that. I'm pretty sure that if our daughter had wheels, she'd be driving around screeching "Crazy" at the top of her lungs. I'm also sure that some parents reading this have done the same thing.
Honestly, I think I'd actually be ok with my daughter doing something like that so long as she was obeying the rules of the road. There's nothing wrong with enjoying life and singing out loud without a care in the world every once in a while. I enjoy doing just that to the soundtrack from Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" and my kids love it! Watching my two-year-old boogey in her car seat to the opening sounds of Blue Suede's "Hooked on a Feeling" is joy in its purest form.
Now, all that being said, there are limits to when the music can be played. Or more specifically, watched.
And last Sunday my wife and I set one of those limits.
We recorded the Billboard Music Awards since Britney Spears was leading them off and we thought that maybe we could make our 7-year-old's Monday and she could sort of watch a concert while getting ready for the school bus. Since it was a school night, all three of our kids were in bed long before the start of the only show we watch as it airs, Game of Thrones. (This has been an incredible season, thus far, hasn't it?!) Once we found out Hodor's backstory and saw scenes for next week, we flipped on the recording of the Billboard show.
And then a few minutes later we deleted it. Our daughter still doesn't know it was on.
We didn't mind her watching the Radio Disney Music Awards a few weeks ago. Sure, it was chock full of mostly up-and-coming artists who are all half my age, but it was harmless. If it gets my daughter listening to music to get her creativity going, I'm all for it. Plus, some of the performers for that show were ones I've come to know from the shows on that station, so it was actually pretty neat to see them in a different venue.
What we witnessed on Sunday wasn't music, though. Not unlike Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards a few years ago, I found it lacking in good taste. Not unlike Beyonce when she headlined the Super Bowl halftime show - or any show where she has a variety of scantily clad backup dancers moving about provocatively - I found it lacking in common decency. Had I been a parent when Madonna truly burst on the scene at the VMAs in the 80s with "Like A Virgin" I would probably have written similarly about her.
Ironically, when you hear each of these artists on the radio, it is obvious they have talent. And if talent is too strong a word for some of you, then at least you probably understand their appeal to certain demographics. And that is without a camera present.
As I sit here writing this, I find myself thinking of a Chris Rock stand-up routine where he was talking about being a dad with a daughter. He talked about how he wanted his daughter to grow up and be successful in an industry where she kept her clothes on. Last Sunday I watched and thought about my daughter seeing the Billboard show's opening number, and wondered what she would think was acceptable.
That was part of the reason we deleted last Sunday's award show. The last thing our elementary school aged daughter needed to see was a montage of songs that started with "Work, *****" and featured a woman lip-syncing while riding a guitar...and all while wearing very little.
I suppose those of you in my age range would say I'm a hypocrite because roughly 15 years ago Spears sang a different cover of a classic rock song and was similarly attired. I suppose you'd say, "I'll bet you didn't care then!"
You're right. I was single at the time, was watching an awards show with several college classmates, and was more focused on other things.
People are allowed to change, and so are their opinions.
Life happens. I could go on about how many of today's singers who got their start thanks to Disney have done everything possible to ruin their wholesome images. However, that's been said and done by many others to the point of being cliche. Spears has had well-documented meltdowns. Cyrus is always in the tabloids for some odd reason. Inevitably, someone somewhere claims it's bad for little girls.
Those people aren't wrong. Yet pulling out a soapbox and preaching the death of innocence isn't right, either.
It's about responsibility. When Cyrus pulled her stunt a few years ago, I wrote at the time that I hoped, had our daughter been older and watching with my wife and I that she would have looked at us and said, "Uh, everything she just did on stage there? All that? That's gross." I hope we do a good enough job to have her understand what qualifies as good taste.
All that is down the road, though. For now, while she is still innocent, I just hope she learns one thing: how to control the volume on her stereo.  

Howie Balaban is Stay-At-Home Dad. These are his adventures. His columns appear every other Saturday.

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