Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pop culture

Have you ever wondered what people mean by pop culture? Do they mean People magazine? Do they mean American Idol? Do they mean Kate Spade handbags? Do they mean the Royal Family of England? Do they mean stale popcorn and rated R movies? What exactly does pop culture mean?

Am I crazy for sometimes trying to be a part of it and sometimes even liking it? Am I evil? Am I doing my family a disservice? Sure I like McDonald's. In fact, I love Chick-Fil-A. They have better milkshakes than Steak-N-Shake. I like to read the occasional People Magazine because I can usually catch up on the latest Royal Family fiascoes and find out whether or not Will and Kate are actually going to get married. I rarely get popcorn at the movies, but I can't remember the last time I went to a movie that wasn't rated R. Surprisingly I even got "carded" at the last rated R movie I went to. (Okay so they were checking tickets and not id's.) I have a love/hate relationship with American Idol, but I never miss an episode. I would never dream of owning a Kate Spade handbag. I'm a mom, there isn't room for all I have to carry around with me in one of those tiny purse things. Besides, I'm a Coach woman to the core, although I love my Vera Bradley diaper and matching purses.

So why does everyone always lament pop culture? What is it? Is it because we're too lazy to teach our kids the difference between what is excessive and what is a treat? We know that eating at McDonald's should be reserved for travels, trips, and the occasional bribe, but our kids don't. Well if you teach your kid that McDonald's is for special times, then you don't have to worry about their eating habit right? We know that Rated R movies are not for little kids and really not for tweens either. We know that too much violence and too much sex is really too much for kids. Isn't it really too much for anybody? So don't take your kids to movies you know they aren't ready for.

I'm really not sure why we sigh and shake our heads when we are talking about kids today. You know, a parent has a responsibility to pull the plug on all that stuff. There are clean good movies out there. Meat'n'Three restaurants still exist--my son loves Cracker Barrel, mostly for the toys and the mac'n'cheese, but occasionally he'll eat some carrots.

Teenagers are not bad because they're aliens. They're out of control because we don't take time to understand them. Somehow so many of us stopped putting limits on behavior, what our kids spend their money on, and with whom they spend their time. Just because teenagers can use grammatically correct sentences and walk and talk and dress themselves, doesn't mean they're grown. I got grounded at no reason at 17 to prevent me from going somewhere I shouldn't have been going in the first place. I was terrified of breaking curfew. My driver's license was a privilege not a birthright. If I hear "oh, the Internet" or "oh, that cell phone" one more time I'm going to scream. Take the blooming computer out of the room, the house, whatever. Take the cell phone away. Take the keys away. Parents don't do these things anymore because they don't want to be the bad guy, they don't take an interest, or they don't have time. Being a parent means being unpopular and making choices that often have to inconvenience your own life in order to do the right thing.

I just don't know why pop culture gets all the blame. I know it's hard to make good choices in the wake of everything that's in our world. But do you really think our parents had it easier? I doubt it. Drugs, alcohol, and sex are not new issues. Neither are disease, gambling, prostitution, slavery, or abuse. The Internet is new, but at one time so was rock'n'roll. Clothing options (particularly for girls) are more and more astounding, but at one time wearing pants was a major shocker. It's so hard to be a parent. You just have to have faith in yourself. Know your own limits. Make your own rules--and then keep them.

How do you expect your kids to respect limits when they don't see you respecting yours? Granted this is easy for me to say, my boys are little. I'm already getting into trouble though. I don't always mind my mouth. My own son told me that I said a bad word yesterday. From the back seat, while I was on the phone with a grown up, he sings out, "Mommy you shouldn't say crap. It's not a nice word." And I thought I was doing good to use "crap". Of course, the day before that, he told his little brother to "shut up". I said "Oh we don't say that to each other honey. That's not a nice word to use." Then I get, "Well you said it to him." I had said it, he was right. I just felt awful. So my son and I sat down and talked about how mommies make mistakes too. Mommies sometimes say ugly things when they are upset, much like little boys scream and shout and throw things when they are upset. It was probably a more constructive talk for me than for him, but I'm trying. I get my comeuppance too. I do not speak these platitudes about rules and limits blindly.

Regardless of our mistakes and missteps, we are the best stewards of our family's time. What we allow sets a precedent for what will be. We're all in this together too. It's as important to be aware of your friends' limits as you are of your own. Talk to each other. Support each other. Get together and make alternative opportunities for your kids together. I'm not saying don't go out in the world, or be afraid of it. I'm saying there is safety in numbers and if we help each other, we'll really be helping all of our kids make a better future. Let's go to the pool or the park and let the kids play while we read our People magazines and talk about what we saw on American Idol last night. Then we can hit Subway instead of McDonald's on the way home. We can surf the Internet (or write blog posts) while the kids nap instead of while they're in the room. We'll save that funny R movie for after the kids are in bed so we don't have to worry about hard questions and we can eat all that stale popcorn ourselves! We can indulge in pop culture on occasion without having to make our kids swim through it. Hang in there. We'll all make it. And someday we will just nod and smile when our kids lament to us about the latest craze in pop culture that's driving them crazy.

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