The Blog

Raising Kids in a VMA Culture

Do my children know they're beautiful, regardless of their physical looks? Maybe they turn out to be supermodel gorgeous, most but likely not. We're pouring a deep truth into them that tells them they're beautiful regardless on what pop culture defines as beautiful.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

I'm sure I'll get called some names for this one. Prude, out of touch, get with the program.

Sunday night we got all five kids to bed before 8:30. Can I get an amen? Brooke and I could have done a lot of things, but we chose to spend an hour-ish watching the VMA's.

Bad choice. Should have watched Parenthood reruns, played Words with Friends, taken the dog for a walk, really almost anything else.

Hear me on this, I'm not sheltering our kids from pop culture. In fact, "Teen Pop" is the most commonly played Pandora station on my iPhone. Our kids watch mainstream movies, listen to mainstream music, eat at mainstream restaurants, wear mainstream clothes.

Call me whatever you want, but we need a new definition of popular than what I watched on Sunday night.

Shirts with f bombs, only slivers of unseen skin, entire dance scenes we fast-forwarded through, the list goes on.

I was joking with a friend on Twitter that night, and he urged me to "write about raising daughters in a VMA culture."

The culture that says your body is your greatest asset. The one that says win at all costs. The one that promotes self over everyone else. The one that uses graphic sexual imagery to drive interest.

I'm not sure I know all the right answers to combat the craziness I saw on Sunday night. In fact, I know I don't.

My first reaction was sadness and a defeated, "how in the hell do we parent well when they see this every time they turn on a TV or open YouTube."

The stats aren't in our favor. Read this article for proof.

Since I don't know all the answers, I've been asking myself these five questions the past couple days. Perhaps they'll lead to some clarification.

1. Do my children know they're beautiful, regardless of their physical looks? Maybe they turn out to be supermodel gorgeous, but most likely not. We're pouring a deep truth into them that tells them they're beautiful regardless on what pop culture defines as beautiful. That beauty fades and wrinkles. True, inner beauty gets more radiant with time.

2. Do they see me treat people differently based on outward appearance? Man, I hope not. Am I more likely to smile and engage the popular? A boss of mine once said, "Watch how he treats the lowest-level employee in the building. That's how you'll know his character."

3. Am I staying engaged with what they're really seeing, facing, experiencing at school? It's easy to hurry our way through each day, each week. Activities, games, auditions, iPads. But where is the space to ask questions and probe into what is really going on in their world? If I don't know, how can I help?

4. Is winning praised, reinforced, highlighted in our home more than the bravery of trying? I'm not saying give everyone a participation medal, but are we so focused on being the best that we bypass the joy of it all? Shouldn't raising kids be fun, watching them try to learn new things?

5. Is there a group of people around them that can remind them who they really are? The pop culture will tell them they're too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall, too rich, too poor, too different. But the ones in their corner, the ones fully behind them don't give a rip about any of that. They love them for who they are and will remind them of that when they forget.

I felt like an old man on Sunday night. Feeling like every other country in the world was laughing at what we call popular. I know it doesn't drive ratings and revenue, but we need to see more true beauty not the desperate attempt at appearing beautiful.

Next year, remind me to knit a sweater or something else instead of the way I chose to spend my hour on Sunday.