CORRECTED: I had the country as Argentina, when in fact it's Brazil. Lo siento, por favor perdóname!
There's an 8-year-old girl in Brazil who does a mean Lady Gaga impression. And it freaks me out. You'll probably think I'm overreacting, but this video of Laura Montana, a young contestant on a popular TV show performing "Bad Romance" and "Paparazzi" made me cry. You can watch it here.
I mean it - I actually had tears in my eyes watching. I turned it off halfway through. You're overreacting, I told myself. But watching that little child's half-naked body contort and gyrate and crawl on the floor, her sweet little face disguised as a grown up lady clown - it broke my heart. I admire her bravery and recognize her talent - what a voice! - but her precocious dancing, her outfit, the bizarre enthusiasm of the judges and the audience, her mother watching ... it just perfectly encapsulates all my fears about raising a daughter in this world.
My own daughter Isabella will be 7 next month. So far, she's been pretty sheltered from pop culture at large - we're vigilant about what shows and videos she's allowed to watch. I consider it a major accomplishment that she only vaguely knows who Hannah Montana is (because that means she doesn't register any of Miley Cyrus' antics, and I'd just as soon not have to explain what pole dancing is, thank you very much). I don't want to completely isolate Isabella - hey, I was just a few years older than her when I knew all the words to Madonna's True Blue album (and look at me now!). I don't want to keep her in a bubble - and even if I did, I know I couldn't.
But that being said, I'm cautious, and I'm so very anxious about what the next few years will bring, as my husband and I try to stand between her and a world that seems to want her to grow up so fast. Just the other day I was shopping at Target, and was suddenly struck by the difference between the clothes they have for girls under 6 and girls over 6. It's astounding -- how did my little daughter so quickly go from sweet ruffled dresses to sassy t-shirts and leopard-print leggings? The line between baby girl and mini-teenager seems so sharp and firmly drawn. But she's still a baby, I think to myself, even as her long legs and her maturing face tell a different story.
Ironically, just a few weeks ago, Isabella watched the Grammys with me. I was a little uncomfortable letting her, but I told myself not to be a stick in the mud. It was a blast. Both of us were enthralled by Pink's breathtaking performance; we thought Taylor Swift was sweet and fun; Beyoncé was deemed very, very pretty; and - most of all - we both LOVED Lady Gaga. "I like how she thinks of herself as art," Isabella said as we watched Lady Gaga walk the red carpet in her fabulous Christmas tree from another planet costume. Her performance was electrifying - and even though I felt a little weird about letting Isabella watch, it was so much fun to enjoy the show with her.
After the Grammys I downloaded Pink's Glitter in the Air album, Taylor Swift's Fearless and yes, some Lady Gaga - so far, just the mash-up she performed with Elton John. I thought it would be fun to listen to them with Isabella. I know other moms with girls her age listen to stuff like that with them. I want to be a fun mama, not an overprotective worrywart - and, to be perfectly honest, it makes my life easier when Isabella can share with me the things I like. Let's face it - I miss Isabella being a chubby-legged 4-year-old, but I do not, and will never, miss Dora the Mind-Numbing Explorer. How much more fun will it be to watch NBC's Thursday-night lineup with her than SpongeBob?
But seeing that little 8-year-old girl acting like a provocative adult woman on stage - and being cheered on for it - that really takes my breath away, and makes me second-guess the choices I'm making as a parent. Am I over thinking this? Probably. Watching Lady Gaga at the Grammys is not a gateway drug to performing her songs half naked on a TV show. But it affects me in the same way reading horrible news about a murdered teenage girl in Southern California affects me - I want to hug my daughter close, wrap her in a cocoon of safety, and bare my teeth and claws at the world.
After all, isn't it our job as parents to protect and filter? But of course then the question is: how much filtering? How much is too much? When is it OK to relax a little, to acknowledge that since we can't shield our children forever from everything, the important thing is to raise a person with a strong sense of self, who can make smart choices?
And even more mystifying ... How did I go from the little girl singing along to Madonna to the mom worried about Lady Gaga?