Saturday, January 06, 2007

Oops!

For about a week, the girls have been both horrifying and terrifying Gwen and I by bouncing around the house singing garbled versions of “Oops!... I Did It Again.” They have no way of knowing, of course, that the performer who made the song famous has been more famous lately for repeatedly baring her crotch in public, passing out drunk at New Year’s Eve parties and making questionable marital, parenting and wardrobe decisions. But we know. And watching our precious and pure daughters, ages 3 and 5, wandering about aping Britney Spears is as disturbing as it is illustrative of the way life and the outside world have the increasing ability – over time – to grab a hold of the hearts and minds of the children we are trying to appropriately shield and protect.

The line that really makes me cringe, which Madison and Ava somehow manage to at once amplify and mangle, is “I’m not that innocent!” Little did anyone know back in 2000, when the song was released, that Little Miss Britney was not only telling the truth, she was apparently bound and determined to define and personify the antithesis of the word.

I should stop for a second and explain where this came from. One of Madison’s Christmas gifts this year was a Barbie keyboard, a companion toy to a fake Barbie electric guitar that Ava got last year. Both instruments have the same handful of embedded songs in them, for sing-along purposes I guess, and “Oops!... I Did It Again” is in the collection. Took a few minutes of play on Christmas morning for the girls to get stuck on the infectious little number – it didn’t sell millions of copies for nothing – and the next thing I knew I was up in our home office holding my nose as I downloaded the track on iTunes, after hours of insistent and rabid begging, so the girls could listen to the “real” version in its full form.

Gwen shook her head and gave me a sort of “this one’s on you” vibe in the midst of the download before wandering out of the room. The girls just wanted the song to play, again and again. And again. And again.

Interest seems to have subsided over the last day or so, which is a positive sign, but dodging this bullet (I had been bracing for the line "Daddy, can we go see this lady sing live?") doesn’t mean there’s not another one right around the corner. Actually, I’d be heartened by just another one, while fully expecting to eventually be faced with the opportunity to play Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, dodging and weaving in the face of an extended hail of gunfire.

We bring our babies home from the hospital and except for the crying, feeding and sleeping they are basically inanimate objects, the human equivalent of Chia pets. Adorable, transcendent, awe-inspiring to be sure, but to be honest really not a lot coming back in terms of expression or awareness – we start from a base of total control over their day-to-day experiences and perceptions. And from that moment on we start giving it away, day-by-day, as the world gains access and eventually takes hold.

There’s no way around it. It’s natural, it’s necessary, it's important, and for a parent who admittedly skews to controlling and careful, it can be scary and difficult. They move from toddling around a home or apartment to running across a backyard, always in sight, always in range, to hours away from home every day, bus rides with older kids, hurt feelings, external influences, cross words or difficult concepts we parents never get to hear ourselves, even if we are lucky enough to be told about them later so we can draft in with some wisdom and guidance. It’s life. It comes at them faster and more furiously today than ever. We need to make sure they are ready, supported, strong, self-aware and self-assured and able to process and navigate everything they encounter.

And, as parents, it goes without saying that these days there is less and less room for, “oops.”

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