Sunday, November 26, 2006

Darkness Falls, and I tiptoe through culture's minefields

Every so often, in spite of all the self-education I have on teenagers, I feel like the ground under me is not so stable. I wish I could say this was a simple case of "The Enemy" attacking, as some Christians I know might say.

But I think it's a more complicated issue of the collision of free will(s), the object being a Wii or an MP3 player, and the conflict between my 13-year-old son's free will saying yes, and my free will saying no.

We had the discussion last night about his Christmas gift list, and my first response was $200 is too much money to spend on Christmas gifts. He, teary-eyed, said I was mean and that all his friends got way more than that. Me, tired, replied that we weren't his friends' parents. He, defiant, said you got that right. Then he stomped off.

I have several problems with the thing. It's not like it's all that new -- we had the Sony walkman 20 years ago and they all do the same thing: allow you to listen to music at any time you like. So my first objection is the ever presence-ness of it -- you can't get away from the music, and there's never any possibility of silence. Not silence in the sense of Mom and Dad can't stand the racket, cuz the things are glued to ears and it's hard to hear when you're on the outside. But the silence that's necessary for life. The distraction is not entirely safe, at least this is what I tell my son, though I've never heard of a teenager hit by a car because they were so wrapped up in their headphones.

Secondly, I object to the downloading of music, for two reasons. The first is, most people download illegally, that is don't pay for it. But the second reason is that you choose only the individual songs you like, so that the "collection" comprises unrelated pieces of music. There's no way a kid gets to hear a musician's whole canon. There's no possibility for nuanced variations in a musician's vision, and even though I might not like the music, I do recognize that every musician has some kind of worldview or vision.

Third, there's no way for a parent to vet lyrics on 300 songs. My stipulation has always been this: while I might not personally like the music, I do recognize your (teen child) choice in music. But I will have a say in the lyrics you're consuming.

Fourth, I do think there's an eardrum issue here -- potential for later damage.

Now that I've had the chance to sleep on it (and where did that expression come from -- anyone who's had to wrestle with something never sleeps, but lies awake tossing and turning, about the problem) -- tonight we will have a family conflab and I will list all the reasons why I'm opposed to giving an MP3 player for Christmas, and I will invite his reasons why he should have one. If they are solid and reasonable, chaos will set in once again, I will spend another night not sleeping and mulling and chewing this over, and we will go back to the negotiating table.