Last summer at the Biltmore Hotel pool in Phoenix our 7- and 4-year-old daughters heard, and heard, and heard again a catchy dance-pop ditty recorded by a British boy band called The Wanted.
Called Glad You Came, it goes:
The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now
My universe will never be the same
I’m glad you cameYou cast a spell on me, spell on me
You hit me like the sky fell on me, fell on me
And I decided you look well on me, well on me
So let’s go somewhere no one else can see, you and me
But it wasn’t just at the hotel pool. This song popped up back home at our daughter’s dance class, in restaurants, everywhere. And our little girls would stand in the living room and sing this song in their sweet little voices.
These are far from perfect lyrics or a perfect message for little girls. Suggesting that you go somewhere where you cannot be seen is not a good idea. And lyrics about “taking you by the hand, hand you another drink, drink it if you can,” are certainly not good, but maybe not understandable by our little angels.
Little girls grow up fast these days. They get jaded fast, too. Our little girls, though, are very innocent. And they go to a very sweet and very innocent little parish school run by young ladies who came out of Christendom and Steubenville. It is an island of innocence. And we like it that way.
But the culture is always out there. On the block where we live, all the kids go to the public schools. And while I would not say they are anything other than innocent, they likely are exposed to influences that are culturally troubling. They know more about current music and television and movies – things we are careful about letting our daughters listen to or see.
Sometimes I have a vision of demons swirling around my daughters. I have always believed in demons, but never more so than after we had these two little girls. I sense demons swirling and snarling around them, eager to ruin them. And demons today have so many tools to work with, particularly in popular culture.
The Children’s Round Dance by Hans Thoma, 1872
While I want the demons away, I don’t want my daughters to be saps either, that is, so unsophisticated that they are subjects of mirth and also unable to defend themselves against more worldly girls and boys. Of course, you would choose sappiness over damnation any day, but there is a wide range between them.
So, how to navigate between the two?
Even though The Wanted drove us crazy at the pool in Phoenix, and we do not want our daughters to become aficionados of corrupting dance music, at Christmas we caved in and bought our daughters their CD. And they love it. They sing and dance around and sing along in their sweet little voices.
At exactly the same time, though, we put in motion a counter proposal, what I call our “Country Music Gambit.” Though largely disdainful of country music, my wife and I were willing to suffer through years of it as an antidote to other more dangerous genres. So, along with The Wanted we bought the girls Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, pretty girls singing wholesome songs, or so we thought.
With high expectations, we put Carrie Underwood on the stereo and out came loud and crunching guitars that were an immediate assault on their young ears, nothing bouncy, nothing poppy. The girls’ mouths just fell open in shock. There was no dancing around. Their eyes were wide and not in wonderment but in something like alarm. Mommy and daddy, you want me to listen to this?
Taylor Swift was not much better. One of her songs is about the angst of being fifteen, not having any friends, and then falling in love. It was kind of morose and did not fit the spirit or the experience of our girls. We put Underwood and Swift away and our daughters have not asked for either one since.
My wife is content for them to stay with The Wanted. She says the girls experience The Wanted as little girls. Their favorite song after all is about the moon and stars and the universe and how: “I’m glad you came. I’m glad you came.” It’s a bouncy song and the lyrics probably remind them of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and of friends coming over to play.
Like all little girls, Lucy and Gigi want to be big girls, but becoming really big girls is also kind of frightening. I suspect their reaction to Underwood and Swift was probably that fear. They find comfort in innocence, and safety, too.
As parents we are profoundly aware of a few things, such as the fact that we are only vaguely aware of what we’re doing. Our instincts are sound, but what to do? We also know we’re in a race with the devil. And we feel quite alone and outnumbered by those who seek the ruin of their souls.
One solution we stumbled upon is to seek more allies, so we are moving. We do not think of it as moving away. Rather we are moving toward an intentional Catholic community that has grown organically around that innocent little grade school our girls attend. There is a cloud of witnesses there and they are going to help our girls and us.
We’ve also heard there are some pretty good Christian bands like Barlow Girl and Innocence Mission. I think we will give them a try. And continue to pray.