Yep, you read that right. Thank you, Miley, for being human and flawed and real and for living out your experimental phase (also known as your teens and 20s) in the public eye. Because of you, I have had the opportunity for some pretty honest and open conversations with my 9-year-old. Things I didn't expect to talk about until maybe she was a bit older, but the truth is, nowadays, our 9-year-olds might as well be 12-13 years old. So there is no time like the present... right?
Over the last couple of days, I have witnessed multiple friends rail against the mighty Miley. They trash her, call her pretty horrible names and sound an awful lot like our parents did when they trashed our music and our 20-something culture. Remember when our parents did that? We pretty much wrote them off as uncool, unsophisticated old fogies who didn't understand us and shut them out of our minds and true thoughts forever (or until we were about 25 and realized that they might know a thing or two).
As a parent, I have come to the realization that at any moment, the ability to openly communicate with my kids about what's going on in their lives could end. With one slip of my tongue, roll of my eyes or bashing of someone they like, they can forever close the door in my face, shutting me out and possibly doing a lot more harm than listening to a song about "Molly" ever could. Here's the thing: My kids have no idea what "Molly" is and should they ask, then I will do what I always do: I will tell them the truth and then hopefully have a pretty interesting and often downright hilarious conversation about it. Kids are pretty smart, and given the opportunity, they know a good choice from a bad one. And instead of lecturing them or rolling my eyes and condemning, they kinda feel empowered if I ask them their thoughts about things. All the while, they are learning that you can enjoy someone's music or art without having to emulate them, sorta like the way we adults do. You may have a penchant for Mel Gibson movies, but I don't see you going on any anti-Semitic tirades in your local bar (at least I hope not).
I remember when I was a kid and all I really wanted was the truth from my parents (except about Santa, they could lie to me about that one). But when I asked about something and got an answer that wreaked of parent cover-up, or was wrought with, "I don't want to talk about this with you now," or, even worse, felt as if my parents were pretending to be as pious as the virgin Mary, when in fact they probably weren't, I closed the doors and shut them out. I remember worrying that if my parents were perfect, and if I was honest with them about how I felt or what I was thinking, they would judge me, possibly disown me or even worse, send me to boarding school. So, I mastered the art of the "uh-huhs", "nothing," and the "Everything's fine," kept my grades up and went about doing much of what Miss Cyrus is doing now -- save the grinding against Robin Thicke on national television.
And therein lies the rub for many of the bashers of the Miley's and the Lindsay's and the other 20-somethings making headlines: If we are actually honest about some of the stuff we did in our 20s, then Miley and friends are pretty much on track. And if you were the epitome of virtue in your youth, then I'm sorry, you missed out.
So, how did I survive my 20s without a drug addiction or a venereal disease? Since my parents tried to hide the truth from me, like most other parents back then, I found someone who would tell it like it is, and for me that was my big sister. I was really lucky to have her. I also had some great friends and between the gaggle of us girls, we managed to pull the plug when things were going to get truly out of hand or anyone was about to do something that would haunt us for life. And we did it all without the threat of social media or the paparazzi. My daughter doesn't have a big sister, but what she does have is me, my girlfriends and her aunt, all of whom tell her the truth, listen to her, talk to her and don't roll their eyes when that Miley song comes on -- they sing along instead.
I realize that there is going to come a time when my daughter isn't going to want to tell me all the juicy details of her first kiss, or first... well, you know (shudder). So now, while she is still talking to me (barely!), when she asks me about something she's seen on TV, heard in a song or heard about somewhere out in the world (when I let her out of the cave), I tell her the truth. When she asks me if I have ever done something wrong or made a mistake, I tell her the truth. I tell her stories about how I snuck out of the house, lied about being at a friends house when I was really out on the town or put makeup on or took the sweater off once I was out of eyesight and then got caught. She knows she's going to get the truth from me. She also knows I'm not stupid, either, and it's not going to be easy to pull one over on me. But hopefully she sees that I'm not some curmudgeon old cranky pants who doesn't want her to have fun, but probably knows a thing or two about how them youngin's plan on sneaking out of the house.
So leave Miley be. Instead of judging her, instead of whipping out your best Mother Theresa impression (seriously people, remember that time...), send her some love and sing along. Be ready to catch her if she needs you to, or better yet, be a good guardrail. Let her bounce around and fall a few times and guide her to her 30's with a few bumps and bruises but no lasting marks.