How many generations of parents have worried about their teenagers? I know parents worried Elvis Presley would corrupt their youth. My own teenage tastes ran to Simon and Garfunkel. Nowadays, that seems so tame, but what exactly were Paul Simon and Cecilia doing anyway? Today I got my own jolt of reality on my predawn drive to work as a high-school Special Education teacher.
Instead of popping in a CD, or turning to a classical music or news station, I twirled the dial. Blaring through my speakers came Katy Perry’s chart-topping hit: “Teenage Dream.” I’d never heard it before. The refrain goes like this: “Let’s go all the way tonight. No regrets, just love. We can dance until we die. You and I. We’ll be young forever.”
It gets worse.
“My heart stops. When you look at me, just one touch. Now baby I believe this is real. So take a chance And don’t ever look back. Don’t ever look back.”
Here’s Ms. Perry’s version of love: “We drove to Cali and got drunk on the beach.Got a motel and built a fort out of sheets. I finally found you. My missing puzzle piece. I’m complete.”
Seriously? What messages is this 26-year-old marketing? A girl needs a boy to be complete. Don’t think about your past or your future. Just live for your hormone-filled moments. And sex comes without consequences.
What to do? When my boys were toddlers, I used to tell myself that we have to give our children something to say “yes” to instead of just saying no to what troubles us. This morning, as I listened to this song, I started to pray. I prayed my husband and I are offering our sons something of value to hold onto. The consumer culture Ms. Perry personifies is full of empty promises.
I thought back to the night before, when my husband grilled ribs and chicken wings and we invited a slew of friends over to watch our beloved Phillies. We’d spent the weekend enjoying our town-wide garage sale, attending a soccer game, a church potluck and Mass.
Later today, I learned that Ms. Perry’s own parents were evangelical Christian pastors and that she had listened to only gospel music as a child. They did their best, I am sure, and she has lost her way. I pray the lessons she must have learned about God’s immeasurable love will return to her.
As for my husband and I, we are flawed parents. But because I am Catholic I know that the moments we spend with our boys are important. The home and church life we have cultivated for them is designed to help them on the paths to their own destinies. And because I am Catholic I pray for them, for all teenagers, and for Ms. Perry too.
At www.lifeteen.com, I found a wonderful prayer we can share with our teens.
Heavenly Father, You know all that I am. I pray today I will grow in your love through all I meet,in all I study, and in all I experience. Help me Lord, to not become overwhelmed this new day and year by those temptations that draw me away from your Truth. I make this prayer this through the intercession of our Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit who live and reign with you now and forever.