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Category: Blog Written by Kay Wills Wyma
When and why do kids go wild? I don't know. But the wild doesn't just happen overnight. It's often a long road traveled by small steps that seem insignificant in the moment. A road paved with words like, "just this once."
I'm sorry, but I'm sad about the Miley Cyrus incident at the MTV Video Music Awards. My kids and I, since I'm a teeny-bopper at heart, adored Hannah Montana. From the first show until the last. I remember Billy Ray when Achy-Brakey Heart topped the charts. He disappeared for a while then showed up as doctor on TNT. I'm not sure I saw the show, but I remember being glad for him. Not many people get more than one shot at fame. It seemed he was grounded and he wasn't a quitter. Good for him.
Fast forward to another media outlet. The Disney Channel with his daughter. Welcome meteoric rise to fame for his young daughter. They seemed to wear it well – even prudently. But in the midst of apparently strict boundaries in their home, some "just-this-once"s began to cross their path. Some weren't small. One was a precursor to the young lady's VMA performance.
I'll never forget watching her on the Nickelodeon Teen Choice Awards in 2009. (Granted, I had to go back to see what year. But it wasn't hard to find. I googled Miley Cyrus ice cream cart) My young daughters coerced me into changing the station to watch Miley perform. It didn't take much. She was so cute. An inspiration to so many. Apparently, she had won some ginormous award. But, rather than come up on the stage and accept, the show had her sing her new single – Party in the USA. Catchy fun song.
She pops out of a Airstream trailer with back-up dancers and starts to sing. Modestly dressed, she does a few moves I didn't want my daughters imitating. Then, I scolded myself as a bit of a prude. I can't help it. As a mother I see everything differently. I see with their eyes instead of mine. And not with their rational. But with rational eyes that know what's on the other side of those moves when you get just a few years older. Anyway, within a minute, she's making her way down the stage stairs when an ice cream cart is wheeled her way.
A strange ice cream cart. One with a stripper pole in the middle. I remember thinking … please don't. Then she did.
I can't begin to think how anyone involved in that show justified a 16-year-old dancing on a pole in front of who knows how many viewers. In disbelief I watched. I gasped. I felt ill. I wished my kids hadn't seen it. I couldn't believe that anyone on any production team could see in any way shape or form how such an unnecessary move could be danced in front of a teenage crowd while hanging on to a pole like it was every day normal. Her doing it made it normal. In fact, after that incident I actually stepped in to change direction of a tween friend who was over jumping on our trampoline. Party in the USA came on the radio. Mimicking began – because that's what kids do. Then she grabbed one of the poles holding the net and started copying Miley. I adore that child, so I told her exactly what I had told my girls and wanted my girls to hear again.
"Please don't ever do that on a pole. Dance moves like that communicate more than you realize. It brings images into the minds of people that aren't at all equal to who you are. I know it might seem fun and harmless in the moment, but it sends a message that demeans you. And your are worth so much more than that. You are precious. You are priceless. Please don't forget that. Come find me, I'll remind you."
Thinking about that awards show still makes me sick. But not as sick as this did at the time:
Hard to imagine they could fathom that in four short years, their daughter would flaunt herself in a disturbing sexual scene on a different awards show.
At the end of her Nickelodeon song, Miley thanked her fans, her producer and "my God in heaven who got me here." To which my girls proclaimed to each other, "See?!!! She loves God." I hope she still does. I hope deep down, somewhere she remembers/knows she has worth. That she's precious. Priceless. Because I think that message has gotten lost somewhere along the way.
Here's the deal: baby steps lead in a direction. For the Cyrus clan – maybe it began with a seemingly harmless ice cream cart. It crossed a barrier that made it easier to cross again – and again – and again. To the point of a display that shocked everyone.
Before judging, it might be worth stopping and assessing where we might be taking baby steps in the name of "just this once." Do we say the same thing? One underage beer. It's just a drink. All the kids are doing it. He'll be prudent – just this once.. .. It's cute dress. Maybe it's a tiny bit short and form fitting. She never wears anything suggestive – just this once. … Co-ed sleepover? The boys and girls will be in separate rooms. Nothing will happen. Just this once… I've got to get an A. I can plagiarize a little. Just this once.
Except it just might shade gray some boundaries and make it easier to take an another step next time that leads to doors better left closed.
Seemingly harmless baby steps. Barriers crossed. Which may or may not lead down an undesirable path. For Miley, her worth has gotten lost somewhere in the midst of all those steps. Whatever accolades, inclusion in the popular group, acceptance, … fill in the blank - it's not worth it.
So, here's to traveling these roads with our eyes open, heralding a very loud message along the way. "You have great worth. You are precious. You are better than a questionable decision. You are priceless." So much so, the "God who got (you) there" gave his life for you. Lest any of us forget. At any stage of our lives.
Thanks for walking the road with me.
Kay Wills Wyma, mother to five aspiring children and wife to one patient husband, writes themoatblog.com. Her new book, Cleaning House—A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement (published by Waterbrook Multnomah/Random House), walks readers through the good, the bad, the ugly and the frequent hilarity of their sometimes-inspiring journey.