Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Day the (secular) Music Died

"Mom, what's "let's go all the way" mean?"

Nothing can jolt a mom out of a traffic induced haze quite like her six year old asking that question. I glanced in my rearview mirror at my daughter and saw her casually looking out the window. As I focused my attention back on reality I noticed Katy Perry's Teenage Dream playing on the radio. I quickly switched the station and began to wrack my brain for an age appropriate answer. Luckily, the new song playing was catchy, ok for little ears and a decent diversion. At least for five minutes we had relative peace until the next song came on that needed to be switched and it took me three stations to finally find a something my kids could listen to without me having to change the station or launch into a discussion about how inappropriate some word choices might be.

It became a full time job to be aware of what was playing on the radio at all times, offer wise counsel when I thought I needed to about lyrics, change the station when necessary, to explain certain artists were generally off limits and why. The day that I couldn't find a suitable station for more than one song at a time was the day I finally gave in and tuned into the local Christian radio station.

I never wanted to be the mom who policed what her kids listened to.We have always felt that rather than cut out certain types of music, movies, books, we would listen/watch/read and discuss, rather than ban. Aaron and I feel (hope) that our kids will be better equipped to face the world if they know what the world is taking in. I always cringe whenever I hear someone refer to the local radio station as "secular" or when radio stations (secular or otherwise) call their playlists "safe for the whole family!" It brings to mind a conversation I had years ago with someone who believed "secular" music is damaging to worship and to our hearts and minds. The sweeping generalization didn't sit well with me, as most don't (even as I use them regularly).

We recently spent 3 hours watching a two hour superhero movie because we stopped the movie so often to talk about what was happening onscreen. It's a rough way to watch a movie, I'll admit, and out eight year old started to get a little exasperated with us, until a scene that even he felt was inappropriate came on and when we stopped it he told us why it was inappropriate. I tried that approach with music on the radio, but found it utterly exhausting. It became necessary to my sanity to make the switch away from "secular" music for the foreseeable future, just so we could have a peaceful car ride.

Now I am left wondering what to do next. My kids are 8, 6 and 4, so I have some time before those teenage years where music/media becomes an important part of a kids self expression and learning experience. We can live in a smaller world of music for now, but as my kids get older and their friends start touting the latest and greatest, I want them to be ready for it. I want them to be able to listen to the radio with discernment. I want them to be able to think for themselves about whether or not what they are listening to is honoring to God or other people and then, when I don't agree with their choices, give them the grace to figure out why. Besides, blanket bans aren't always fair. The same girl who wrote Teenage Dream also wrote this.

For now, we will listen to the limited playlists on Christian radio while I recoup my nerves before we ease back into the mainstream radio. Aside from the backseat bickering, car rides are surprisingly stress-free.


  1. I so appreciate your sweet Mommying skills. Your youngins are blessed to have you.

  2. I had that awakening when J was 4 ish and asked, "mommy, what does 'turn you on' mean?" Yikes!!!!! And now that my 8th grader is the car dj, we are changing stations A LOT. But I tend to lean toward your style, of explaining rather than eliminating. Although, Katy P. Makes me so stinkin mad. (think we had this discussion already) it is terribly hard to find decent "secular" music. I also find that songs I know all the words to from back in the day are just as bad as today's songs. I feel like I'm rambling...I'll stop now!

  3. Yes! Oldies can just as bad, but the thing with older songs is that it seems the songwriters had a better grasp of subtlety. Many songs I was and adult before I was like, "oooooh that is what that means!" I'm not sure if it is better per sey, but it is certainly easier!

  4. I totally did the same thing -- broke down and added christian radio stations to my pre-sets :-( Sometimes you just want some music and don't want to have to be on alert!

    But, just as an encouragement, our oldest is now 15 and he's been exposed to many different genres of music and we trust him to evaluate the merits of the songs, both musically and lyrically. We like a lot of the same artists now! Good thing he's never liked rap :-)

  5. Oh dear. I have so many fears about this, it's not even funny. I started listening to Christian music when I was pregnant (for the first time in my life!) and haven't looked back. I'll save the gangsta rap for when I go out dancing with the girls (a once-a-year occasion).

  6. Ashlee, fear not! You will do the very best you can and it will be wonderful. Sharon, I am so glad to hear it! I know I have to let my kids have the freedom to listen to what they want, but durn it, it's scary! ;)

  7. Claire -- that wasn't until way later though (the freedom). I'm all for being the clean music police while they're young. It wasn't until the 15-yr-old started to display discernment and maturity on his own that we were able to trust him -- it's earned and all...

  8. Sharon - Most definitely! It's the future freedom I am wary of! I'm sure it will be fine, though.

  9. I've thought the exact same thing, as Charlotte tends to copy what anyone says, as her means for learning "english"... the radio has been banned in our car :) Instead we sing good ol' Row Row Row Your Boat, over and over again ;)


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