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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

True Grit

We've had quite the discussion from the Peanut Gallery on the last post on the Patron Saint of Etiquette. I hope you can take the time to read through the thoughtful thoughts of our compassionate readers.

I wish I had had the wherewithall to sum it all up as nicely as one reader's mom did: "something my mother always said, "the people who are hardest to love are the ones who need it the most."

Ain't it the truth?

Happily for me, I know our readers will also weigh in on this complex and gritty problem:

A question: Do I allow a 14 year old girl (very good, kind, naive, religious girl), to have popular rock songs on her ipod that are riddled with sexual innuendo (if you want to call it innuendo!), and other nasty themes? She doesn't know about the birds and the bees yet (homeschooled!), and just loves music, the beat, etc. I feel like the Grinch telling her she's got to go find something more suitable, as almost nothing on the local radio station is suitable (especially when I consider my choices at her age), but yet I feel a horrible pang of guilt every time I download another icky pop favorite for her. I've explained my reluctance to her in that most of these songs glorify sin, especially against the 6th commandment. She doesn't quite get what that means. Is it time for 'the talk'? Do I cut the cord on the music? Am I overreacting? Any input would be appreciated!

Would that we could all just stick our fingers in our ears and hum. But, no such luck.  School, whether at home or seated in a roomful of the great unwashed, is a preparation for life outside the classroom.

She's 14 and you haven't had "the talk"?  You wouldn't have gotten away with that had she gone to school outside your home.  Not that that is a bad thing, but any second, she could walk out your front door and be very, very unprepared for life as the rest of us know it.

It's lovely that you've managed to keep her innocent for so long.  These days, most children have had the rudimentary "talk" by age 7 or so, and because of all the hormones in our milk products, the rest have had the full explanation, complete with a power point show, by age 9.

I think you've bypassed your dilemma. Here is your actual dilemma: You can download all the songs you want and feel no guilt whatsoever because she doesn't get one word of the innuendo or otherwise.  They may as well all be in French, or Swahili.  What difference does it make, really if she doesn't understand any of it?  It really is just a beat.  As long as she doesn't bop around town singing it, nothing bad has happened.

I saw "A Streetcar Named Desire" on TV once when I was too young to know what was going on.  I thought Stanley was kind of mean to Blanche and that was the end of that.  I felt sorry for Blanche because she wasn't married and wanted to be married and I thought it was mean of that homely man, Carl Malden, to dump her because she had had boyfriends along the way.  Of course she did!  She was in her forties!  Go live with your mother, Carl!

Now I realize what was going on there. 

Once you have that talk, you're going to also have to decide how to handle this.

Growing up is about handling things yourself.  She's going to have to decide what to do about all of this.  At that point, you can tell her you will no longer download things you find inappropriate.

That doesn't mean she'll never hear any of it, or find a way to listen to it, or end up downloading it herself at some point, unless you lock her in the basement where there's no internet reception.

Keep this in mind, you can't be good without bad.  If there was no bad, good wouldn't be a choice.  She has a solid foundation in good, but she's always going to have to choose it, just like the rest of us.

And it's not always so black and white and easy breezy lemon squeezy.  I remember when Elvis Presley couldn't be shown on television except for his head because he gyrated his hips.  Now when you see those old videos, he just looks like he's swinging his knees all around.  At least, that's what it looks like to me.  But then I never could figure out what all went on in "Suddenly Last Summer".  My point is, even with things that seem terrible and sinful, times do change.  Hence the phrase "a well turned ankle."

Maybe you can get her interested in Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman.

I'm sure our readers will have a lot to say!


Anonymous said...

Even if there hasn't been "the talk" the child knows something about her own sexuality and about adult sexuality. Do her a favor and explain it all to her; she may be very confused and have some harmful ideas. I'm shocked she hasn't begun puberty. Using music or movies and things like that is an excellent segway.

And, there isn't a single talk. Sex education at home or in the schools (I had it in Catholic schools from grade 2-12) should be a part of her entire childhood learning experience, building as she ages and matures. Good luck and God Bless.

Amy said...

I second that. It cant be "the talk" it needs to be a constant dialogue. Include her in decision making (with you having the final right to say yes or no) but ask her what she thinks of that, is that what she wants in her mind, what does she think that means? OPEN dialoge. My 16yr old asked me last week what an aphrodisiac was. I was so proud of her for asking. I know she'd heard it on t.v. Open communication help her to become the right woman for God. With this type of conversation she may be the one making the right decisions on her music in no time.

(some may roll their eyes at this and some may not have daughters like this. I'm blessed enough to have three so I think it might work on some level) God bless!

Claudia said...

Should have had "the talk" six years ago....

Sue said...

My two oldest kids are a 14-year-old girl and almost 13-year-old boy. They are also homeschooled, and very innocent, and also much more interested in listening to more current pop music lately. We have had talks about sexuality in very small, age appropriate steps over the years, but never a very straightforward talk about the "mechanics" nor about the perversions they will meet up with in the world (other than things that relate to modesty). I know the time is coming for those talks very soon, though.

What I have done about the music is to listen with them. There is a site called Groove Shark that allows you to make play lists of your favorites. You can listen to the songs she likes and decide whether the lyrics are clean enough, and only add the ones you find appropriate to the list. I just tell my kids, "these lyrics are not good, so let's find something else." So far they are really fine with my censoring things that are not good, because I am allowing lots of others that are OK (not great, necessarily, but OK!)

I think it's important to help our kids to choose wisely like that, rather than just banning all pop music, or the other extreme of just letting them get into music that is totally inappropriate. We all jam out together to their pop music while doing chores together in the morning, etc., and the kids love it.

Hope that helps. I so understand where you are with this. Bless you!

Juli said...

I agree. At her age you're not doing her justice if you do not explain things to her. What if she starts her cycle? Will she think she's dying? Or worse, what if she's in a situation by accident because she doesn't realize the "innuendos" that happen out in the "real world".

Have the talk. Then let her decide if she wants to still listen to the music. I'm sure, if you've raised her with the values that you say you have, that she'll make the right choices. Trust in her.

Dual Role Grandma said...

Another homeschooling parent who strongly urges this parent to get busy on what she should have started responsibly telling her daughter years and years ago. My kids are innocent, but they are not stupid. I would rather they heard about sexual function in the context of the marital embrace from us, than picked it up off the Internet, from uniformed sources or from their friends who might be educated in the secular schools. It starts young with age-appropriate responses. God made it, it's beautiful and sacred, and it's how we come into this world. Better they should know God's way than the other.

We also discuss the music they want to hear. It's gotten to the point where they self-censor a lot, but again, that takes time and involvement with them.

Anonymous said...

Along with having family discussions about music and art and why some of it portrays sex in a way you don't agree with morally, take this as an opportunity to discuss art and music that expresses sexuality and the body in an appropriate way. There is so much beauty in the body and there are artists and musicians and poets who celebrate the body and sex as gifts. They are not all pop or contemporary. They are not all Christian. This is a remarkable opportunity to homeschool and maybe make trips to a local museum.

As a librarian and an artist (Christian) I urge you not to censor or call art "bad." It is better to say things like, "This is not my preference. This doesn't reflect my morals. This is more appropriate for adults."

I also caution you not to find inappropriateness where there isn't any. I am thinking of great works of children's fiction that are banned everyday, like In the Night Kitchen, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Huck Finn. Or beautiful works of music that are banned.

There could be a great lesson about First Amendment and Freedom of Expression here. It IS appropriate to explain an artist's freedom to make art that is not appropriate and to explain your own personal preference. You have a lot of work ahead of you. Godspeed!

Tienne said...

My philosophy is to actively watch or listen to something with my kids so I am able to have a conversation with them about the subtle (or not so subtle) messages within it, and help them learn to identify immoral themes on their own. The Original Poster could start by asking her daughter what she likes about the song and what she thinks it's about. That could lead to a larger discussion about how art (movies, music, TV) shapes the perceptions of those who participate in it.

Better that she is exposed to such things along with the moral voice of a loving parent than that she discovers them on her own without such a voice of reason.

Also: don't be so sure she doesn't understand the song's message. I remember listening to songs as a kid and singing the lyrics. I might not have known what they meant, but I knew the meaning, if you know what I mean!

abishag said...

Laughing about Sr. MM's confusion about Streetcar. Speaking of being a rather innocent youth myself, when I was growing up there was a song on the radio that was absolutely foul - the innuendo was hardly innuendo. I think it was based on a Single Entendre. I used to love this song, and any time it came on the car radio I'd turn it up. Looking back, I was totally embarrassed that I sat there in the passenger seat with my mom, singing the song at the top of my lungs but I don't think my mom even realized how dirty the song was at the time. I know the radio stations didn't or it would NEVER have gotten national airplay, much less Utah airplay. I think I liked it for the music and didn't pay much attention to the meaning of the lyrics (most pop songs were totally nonsensical anyway) which may be why the original poster's daughter is interested in offensive music. I wonder if there is a way to scrub out the vocals on some of the stuff I used to enjoy before I got a clue? To be fair, most of what I listened to was fairly innocuous but there's always one or two that make me cringe.

Also, when the daughter understands more, if you've built up a good relationship with her, pointing out WHY certain lyrics (or TV shows, books, movies, etc.) are harmful rather than just saying "We don't do that" (this was my mom's approach. it was less than helpful) makes for a wonderful teaching opportunity. I know I went through a rebellious period, but even so - at this point I can still put on my Modern Feminist Sensible Shoes and recognize that many of the sexualized concepts and images are tremendously harmful to women (reducing us to objects) and men (reducing them to animals) alike. Maybe if my parents had been less embarrassed about explaining WHY something was bad I would have spent less time being stubborn.

Deborah Large Fox said...

When my girls were young, I explained to them just what those words and phrases meant (and why they were degrading to women, when they were--my girls were young when rap and rock began getting raunchy and directed violence towards women). They understood why I objected to the songs (beside getting a bit of a lesson). I think our talks made them more discerning listeners. Most of the time, they didn't like the song after they understood the lyrics. As they got older, we could at least have a dialogue about the lyrics and music. They are now adults with fairly decent tastes in music. Bottom line: they are going to be exposed sooner or later--keep the lines of communication open. Boy, some of those lyrics were hard to discuss!!

Anonymous said...

Your daughter sounds like a budding Phatmasser. See here: http://www.phatmass.com/music/

I LOVE rap music. The linguistic skill it takes to write good rap lyrics blows the mind. I think rap artists are the best poets in America today (since postmodernism destroyed the more traditional kind...).

But of course, there's the downside to rap music which we are all already very familiar with.

Then I discovered phatmass, where you can listen to CATHOLIC HIP-HOP FREE ONLINE! It's awesome! And once you start getting familiar with the God-fearing artists at the link I provided, that webs out into many, many more.


There are also outstanding non-Catholic, but nonetheless Christian, rap and pop artists. Like Casting Crowns, for example: https://castingcrowns.com/about
Check out their very popular song, "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJXIugwiN7Q
(Not much of a beat on that one, but check out their others.)

Some secular rap artists are also "clean" and inoffensive. Like Will Smith, for example. He's of course very arrogant, but I think it's just one of those entertaining, hip-hop ego things... I don't think he's really like that. ;-)

Best of luck to you, mother, and DO check out Phatmass!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I so appreciate all of your thoughtful answers to my question. You're all the best! SMM, between you and your readership, there is some wonderful wisdom here! You'll all be glad to know that you prompted to order some sex ed books by Christopher West and Gregory Popcak to try to come out of my shell and figure out how to approach this. That's my main problem- I want to share with her the beauty and divine inspiration of sexuality, but I think I'd stammer and turn so red, that it would be my 3rd grade sex ed all over again and I'd ruin it! And use moderation with the music, as I pretty much have been. Thanks for your input. God Bless!

N said...

I am also a homeschooling parent with teenage children. They are innocent, but I learned from my own experience growing up that ignorance is not innocence. My parents, though they tried and I love them for it, didn't teach me much other than what the mechanics were. They were just too embarrased, I think. What this meant, though, is that I would frequently find myself in situations which were, in retrospect, unsavory. Hanging out with people who would make comments and jokes which were all the funnier because I didn't get them... which at more than one point had me ready to be taken advantage of, in a big way. Since that's not a situation I ever want my kids to find themselves in, I've made a couple of rules for myself with my children - they were hard to follow at first, but they've gotten much easier as we go along. First of all, I don't lie - as in, "that's an electric earwax remover" (for those who have seen the movie Parenthood). If I'm not ready or I think they're not ready, I'll say something like, "I'll talk to you about that in private," and then I do. Second, I do not allow anything in my home I am not comfortable with myself. (This is not the same as personal taste.) What this means is my children have a very simplified but effective talk, fairly young, that goes something like, "we're not listening to that song because it talks about people doing sexual things who aren't married to each other - and even if they were, it should be private." The definition of "sexual" in our house is "like the way Mummy and Daddy kiss each other, rather than the way Mummy or Daddy kiss children." They don't have to know any more mechanics than that - they can tell there's a difference. The result has been that as my hearing is not as good as it used to be, my older children will sometimes reach over and change the radio as we're driving along in the car, because they've noticed something I didn't. I'll ask, and they're generally right - I had missed it. They know our family's standards, and they will never get suckered into thinking a group of people are friendly because they joke a lot - a least not in those ways.

Anonymous said...

@J.E.: May I ask you why you don't read the NeoFormalists if you are for traditional poetry? There are so many and they are so talented. There's way too much going on with contemporary poetry too discount it because of one group (who had its day 12 years ago, by the way). I teach adult poetry classes and I always teach blank verse, meter, rhyming and refrains, ballads, and more, AND I can find contemporary examples of all.

@Original Poster (Anonymous)--if you get red faced and embarrassed just explain to your daughter why. Truth and honesty are best. Something simple like, "I am nervous talking about sex, because it is something I don't talk about often. OR, I get embarrassed talking about sex because it is so private." That could be a great lead-in to talking about WHY you don't approve of certain musicians--because they sing about private matters publicly. If you don't address WHY you are embarrassed she might feel sex is shameful. She should feel sex is special, and private.

Amy Rankin said...

As a dairy farm wife in a family that has been dairy farming for close to 100 years, I can tell you there are no hormones in milk that haven't always been there.
Kids grow up faster these days because there are more calories available to them...not because of hormones in the food.

Love your blog!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the thoughts- I'll check out phatmass; I've heard of Casting Crowns... the name is cool, anyway! ;D I tend to shy away from 'Christian rock' as I always assume it's going to be Kumbaya junk, but obviously that isn't true.

@Anonymous who suggested honesty about being embarrassed; I think you're onto something there. I had a 'pretend' conversation in which I decided what and how I'd actually talk to her, and decided I'd have to be straightforward about why I haven't discussed anything with her before. I've got 6 more behind her so far, so I'd better get used to it! :O

Anonymous said...

I don't have an "electric earwax remover." Am I a freak? I thought it was the exception, not the rule, to have (and to use!) such a thing. Maybe I am just in the dark ages.

Please do not answer with links to places where these items are purchased. I am not interested in buying one. I just want to know how "normal" it is.

Anonymous said...

SOOOOOOOOO many old songs from the 80's that I always liked when I was a kid and am just getting the innuendos NOW, at age almost 34 with a child.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to Danielle's comment! I had noooooo idea what I was listening to. Thankfully, I didn't have a radio so I didn't hear that much. As a student of philosophy and theology, I can tell you that the real danger is the subliminal message. We enjoy the music but we don't really know why. The melodies are haunting and they stick with us, then years later when we start to understand, we are already "hooked in." The original poster wonders what harm, if any, is this music doing to her daughter. It may not be doing any harm NOW, because she doesn't comprehend the multiple innuendos, but the devil is very patient. He is willing to wait YEARS, if necessary, in order to win our soul. The advice I try to follow, weak and miserable sinner that I am, is to "test all things and hold fast to that which is GOOD." I don't know the chapter and verse, but I believe it is from St. Paul. Also, Philipians 4:8"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things." We will have to do battle in order to reject evil and practice virtue, but I try to approach it like this: We are attracted to purity in many things - pure gold, pure chocolate (yum!) pure joy, etc. Why does our society place such little value on pure bodies? Biologically, it IS much harder for our youth to preserve purity when a few centuries ago, teens were married instead of fighting temptation in an attempt to put off sexual realations until their mid 20's/early 30's. It can be done, though (just ask any faithful priest, celibate deacon, or religious). If they can do it for life, then it must be reasonably possible to delay gratification, strengthening virtue and fidelity in the process. I have yet to meet someone who waited and regretted it. Likewise, I have yet to meet someone who did not wait, and did not regret it! So, to the original poster, I would say, "Yes, start having the ongoing dialogue - aka, 'the talk.' Also, unplug the music.

Anonymous said...

I almost guarantee that your daughter knows about sex. Someone, somewhere has told her. She at least knows about sexual attraction, and soon she will have experienced it.

Stop hiding the world from your daughter and help her to live in it. Tell her how beautiful sex is in a sacramental marriage. How it is life-giving and selfless. Theology of the Body is fairy tale stuff!

Get off your butt and help her transition to womanhood, or she will do it on her own.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous re: 'electric earwax remover' Most certainly NOT. Never seen one, don't want to. Can you say 'confession?'

Mortal sins, people, mortal sins. Number 6. Look it up!

Ren said...

anonymous: if you're embarassed to talk to your daughter about these things, wait till you're driving somewhere. I've found it's easier to have these "talks" when I don't have to make eye contact. Sometimes, the music winds up being a great springboard for just those sort of discussions. i.e. "Son, would you say those sorts of things to your friends' little sisters? Why not?"
Also, Catholic Heritage Curricula has a good book about the "talk" called The Joyful Mysteries or something like that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip, Ren- I checked out Catholic Heritage Curricula, and ended up ordering quite a few books on sexuality. I need all the help I can get!

Thanks, everyone, I loved reading all of your comments!

N said...

I just wanted to clarify: I was using the "electric earwax remover" as an example of a situation where I might be tempted to lie, rather than be honest, because my children would never find such a thing in my home. (I suppose it doesn't matter, but I was really just looking for an example many people would be familiar with, as it was in a popular movie, rather than something that would happen to many people.)

Anonymous said...

As a teen, I gravitated toward rock and even heavy metal music. As an adult, a lot of the themes and lyrics made me question whether I really wanted to continue listening, but I was still drawn to the music itself. Once I became a parent, there was no way I wanted that in my house! Like other commenters, I've found groups like Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Skillet, and TobyMac. Excellent music. I would hesitate to recommend Skillet, though, if your daughter is really as innocent as you believe her to be. Some excellent messages, but a little mature at times.

As a first time commenter...thanks, Sister Mary Martha! I've loved your blogged for quite some time now!