Country music fans will recognize the name Rodney Atkins; he broke out in 2006 with two big hits, “If You’re Going Through Hell” and, more recently, “Watching You.”
The first song is good advice, but the cute story Atkins tells is that his little boy got in trouble because he kept singing the chorus at school. That’s remarkable in itself, because sadly, in some schools, language as bland as “hell” is accepted and defended. Substitute teachers at most high schools—and even some elementary schools—would probably not blink at Atkins’ song, and might even sing along.
The second song, “Watching You”,” is a song parents, teachers, celebrities and other should be forced to listen to over and over. Perhaps parenting classes should require students to know the song’s lyrics by memory just to receive a passing grade. (Singing could be optional; Lord knows, some of us aren’t meant to sing for a living!) This song details a father’s day with his 4 year old son—who curses, prays, and behaves just like the dad he idolizes.
Certainly we’ve all been told—and in our hearts, we know—that others, especially the young, do watch us. But with Britney flashing her whatevers and violence ripping even the safest parts of our world apart, reminding ourselves isn’t such a bad idea. We are being watched—and we should give a dam—a darn.
That point was hammered home at our last school “dance.” Elementary schools in our area have dances to raise much needed funds for kids’ holiday gifts, incentives, supplies and such. Unfortunately, these dances are loud—I’ve been sent home with blood pressure problems twice—and the kids, at least first grade kids—usually just race mindlessly about, no matter how many of us are there to supervise.
At the last dance, however, it wasn’t the noise that did me in. Rather, it was the group of first grade girls who took over the volleyball net poles—and danced. Pole-danced. The bump and grind, sliding down the ball, rear stuck out, legs open—these girls would have shocked viewers of many a show. And they were six and seven.
Needless to say the spectacle—and there were a lot of eyes on those girls—was stopped immediately. But those girls didn’t just wake up that morning and decide they could pole-dance. They’ve seen it, practiced it. Probably been encouraged. By whom? I don’t know. But like Atkins’ son, they’ve been watching. And what they’ve been seeing may condemn them to a terrible life.
See, Britney and Paris and the others can get by with the skin and the drugs and the alcohol and car wrecks. But a lot of young women can’t buy a break. They won’t be stars, they won’t be safe from sexual predators or boyfriends/husbands who abuse, they won’t be able to hire publicists to make people respect them when their behavior is inappropriate. Those six and seven year olds may not have had a clue that their behavior was inappropriate—because again, they’ve been watching someone, somewhere.
Today, not long after hearing “Watching You” again, my granddaughter came over to give me a hug. I was playing a word game she likes to see, and lost, letting the little gopher get caught by the bad dog. My granddaughter shook her head and asked me to play it again. But this time, she told me, I’ll say “oh, bother,” if you lose. And she said, dead serious, “if you lose, you 'say damn it'.”
Her dad and I managed not to laugh—at least, not too loudly. I told her I’d just say “oh, bother,” too, and I reminded myself, as Atkins does in the song, to be a little more aware of what I am saying. “Damn” is not hard profanity, but it has no place in the vocabulary of innocence. Just as pole dancing robs innocence, so does vulgar speech, so does lack of concern for what is moral behavior and for what others should expect from us.
Those who decry “moral behavior” as being subjective and claim proudly not to sit in judgment of the world have every right to their beliefs. But they also need to know that in a world where six year olds pole dance, innocence is at great risk. And they need to know little ones are watching them, too.