Dear Carolyn: My young teen son loves rap music. I feel deeply uncomfortable with the misogyny, aggression in the service of revenge, and basic crassness of it. I’ve tried to recognize it as a viable art form, but can’t help but feel appalled at not only the hard, angry sound of it, but all of the above values it always seems to carry as well. My son is starry-eyed over it and frequently plays songs for me to hear.
I am happy he is sharing his interests with me, and I have explained to him my perspective that the material makes me uneasy for all of the above reasons. His interest continues unabated. Do I set certain limits on what he can listen to (he is 14), or do I just let it be and hope he grows out of it?
You omitted “or raise him, then trust him, to be one of the millions of people who are able to distinguish between an art form and an instruction manual for the treatment of others.”
Your best defense here isn’t to keep negative cultural influences out of your son’s life — because, good luck — but instead for you to remain in his life. Your open, warm relationship is your best argument against aggression, misogyny, revenge, hardness, anger and vulgarity.
He’s playing these songs for you. I realize it’s disturbing to you, and I realize a lot of people will disagree with me on the power of pop culture, but his including you is a good thing. Plus, if it all sounds negative to you, then I respectfully submit you’re not listening closely or broadly enough.
So my advice is to err on the side of keeping that door open to your son. I mean that figuratively and literally, since cracking down on the music will put him behind a closed door — and that mundane gesture is how so many kids abruptly and profoundly limit a parent’s reach.
Dear Carolyn: Over the years, I have sent my nieces a small check for their birthdays and Christmas. I thought that when they became adults I would then discontinue this practice.
The oldest child turned 21 a few months ago. Now I feel that if I stop this practice, I will be viewed as cheap or uncaring. Also, do I cut off the 21-year-old and still send something to siblings under 21?
I realize this is a small problem in the grand scheme of life, but it’s causing me a lot of stress.
(1) Stopping at 21 is neither cheap nor uncaring.
(2) Anyone who gets huffy over the discontinuation, though, is entitled and greedy. Presumably your nieces aren’t either of these things, but if they are, then that’s all the more reason to stop sending them money.
(3) A 21-year-old certainly can handle direct communication: “Now that you are 21, this is the last of the birthday and Christmas checks. I hope they brought you a smile. It has been a joy/privilege/adventure to watch you grow up.”
(4) This will feel downright celebratory if you can make the last, 21st-birthday check a big(ger) one.
(5) If you can’t afford No. 4, no stress! No. 3 alone is a gracious signoff to a loving and generous run.
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