I told Gabriella, now nine, how proud I am of her for sticking with piano this first year of lessons. It wasn’t easy but it’s made her both a better musician and a better person.
I wanted her to understand that I don’t just love her music but I love who she’s become while making it: disciplined, patient, persevering, kind to herself, humble, confident, able to enjoy the effort and the outcome.
“When I’m seventeen I want to be like [so-and-so],” she said.
Without thinking – and I should have – I said, “I don’t want you to be like [so-and-so].”
I wanted to pull the words back into my face but they were out there. I sat in silence for a minute hoping she wasn’t paying attention to me. Why do kids pay attention when you least want them too?
What followed was the usual “Why not?” discussion that’s always on the heels of a you’re-not-allowed-to(ish) declaration.
I explained as diplomatically and ambiguously as I could that [so-and-so] has recently begun singing songs, wearing clothes, and making decisions that are inappropriate for someone her age…and really for anyone.
“Does her dad know [label] made her do that?”
“A record company,” I explained, “can’t make [so-and-so] do anything. Record companies can say ‘We think you should dress like this and sing that’ but artists get to make the choices and [so-and-so] isn’t making choices I’d like you to make when you’re her age.”
We had a good talk then about what we can do when people we don’t know personally are making bad choices. I explained what a boycott is and we decided that’s a bad idea. We talked about writing [so-and-so] a letter but Gabriella thought she might be too famous to read all her mail.
In the end, we decided we could do two things. First, we can choose as a family not to buy music we think Jesus wouldn’t sing. This isn’t always easy to figure out and we won’t always agree along the way, so we decided sometimes we’ll have to sit down and talk about what a song means together. One thing’s for sure though: mom can’t listen to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” or much else in her beloved buttrock genre anymore and we’ve yet to break the sad news to her about that. She may need hairband rehab.
Second, we can pray for our favorite artists before they make poor choices and after. It’s gonna be a little weird, I admit, to hear a nine year-old pray for her Compassion kid and Toby Mac and Miley Cyrus in the same breath. But we’ll do it.
We want to love their music. But more than that, we want to love who they’ve become while making it.