Malala Girls in a Miley World: One Mom's Prayer

You need to know this about Jason and me: We consider ourselves the guardians of our daughters' childhood innocence, and as their parents, we take this job seriously. Before you roll your eyes and mentally ship us off to Crazy Town, let me clarify: We aren't THOSE kind of parents that place our kids in a bubble of bliss; our girls don't think the world is all rainbows and roses (even though that's what they like to draw). They know that bad things happen, but the key is that WE are the ones to tell them about the bad things; we try to act as the buffer to soften the blow of reality. Our main tactic is to filter their intake of media. We are strict about what they watch on TV (no news or "adult" shows when they are in the room), the movies that they see (only G and PG), and the songs that they listen to. Now before you think I'm some kind of Parent Cop that polices the lives of my kids, let me just be real; this is all a struggle, and we are FAR from perfect-especially considering my penchant for Top 40s Pop. I am just as guilty as the next Mom for mini-van jam sessions that include the latest from Katy Perry, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga. In an effort of full disclosure, my girls know all the lyrics to "Royals," (I know, I know...). If it's any consolation, instead of "You can call me Queen Bee," Peyton sings, "You can call me green bean!" See, I don't think there's any harm... They both think "Grey Goose" is just the color of a bird.

Despite the struggle with my taste in music, we earnestly try to keep the veil of innocence in place not as a way to wield our parental control but simply because they are little girls. They have the rest of their lives to be grown ups--to dress like grown women, to make grown up choices, and navigate this complex world as adults. Childhood is a finite time, a gift of reprieve from some of the harsh realities of this world. As a Mom, I see it as my job to guard that gift for them. And so that's what I try to do. And it's HARD--especially in this messed-up world as the mother of daughters.

Unfortunately, I know this is not the case for all children. When I worked as an elementary librarian, my heart was broken on a daily basis by the loss of innocence for so many of my students. Some parents can't stop the cruelties that creep into their kids' lives--this is a fact.  I am not naive; I work in a public school. But Jason and I have been able to protect our girls from some of the harsh realities of this world; I consider this a great blessing.

This is why my girls have no clue about the Miley Cyrus circus that imploded a few weeks ago. I am not going to rehash that calculated train wreck--you know what I'm talking about unless you've been floating in space for the last few weeks. You need to know that Landry was entrenched in the Hannah Montana craze between the ages of 5 and 6. She had the posters, the t-shirts, the birthday party, the movies, the CDs, the wig. At the time, I thought this was a harmless "thing." After all, Hannah was a product of the Disney Channel! She was Billy Ray's kid! She was wholesome, sweet Miley Cyrus. And then Landry started to outgrow her and that was the end of that phase. Thankfully.

So I was so relieved that I did not have to explain THAT from the VMAs to my girls. Miley hasn't been on their radar, and I have been diligent to keep her off of it for the last few weeks. But when I see Miley mentioned in the news or hear about her on the radio, I just get sad. My heart literally hurts, and I think to myself, "Is this what we've become? Do girls have to twerk, be lewd, and stoop to THAT to get noticed in the world?"

Maybe that's why I have become obsessed with a new girl that has crept up on my radar. Maybe that's why I am latching on to her like she's the hope for humanity. Maybe that's why I've posted about her four times this week on social media. Her name is Malala Yousafzai, and this girl is giving me some HOPE and changing the world--without twerking, without disturbing tongue faces, without a foam finger. This is a fully-clothed, beautiful girl who is changing the world with the power of her words.

If you don't know her story, then read this and watch this video. My words can't do her justice.

Malala's book I Am Malala arrived on our doorstep today. Landry opened the package for me because she loves looking at a new book--even if it's not for her. She stared at the cover, and I could tell that she was struck by Malala's beauty. "Who is this, Mom?"

So I told her. I told Landry all about Malala Yousafzai.

Tonight I told Landry about the Taliban. I tried to explain why they don't value women; why they think girls should not be educated; why they carry guns and take innocent lives. I told her about this remarkable girl named Malala, who was shot in the face by a terrorist because she thinks all girls have a right to an education. As we watched this video together, Landry's face lit up in admiration as Malala spoke of peace through dialog and education--not through violence. "That's so awesome! She's so amazing!" Landry was taken by her just like me.

And that's when it hit me--we need more Malalas for our daughters to admire. We need more girls who can speak eloquently about the importance of education and peace--who don't feel the need to be "sexy" to be noticed and heard. We need more girls like Malala.

Landry will turn 11 next month, and it's time to start lifting the veil. I realize that she needs to know more about this world and its crazy, harsh reality, but I want to be the one to filter it for her.  Peyton was not in on this conversation because it's not time for her to know about this. Even though I think she'd understand it, I don't want her to have to know it yet. She's still got a few precious years of innocence left, and I will guard that fiercely for her. But it's time for Landry to start learning. And we will start with Malala, our new hero.

It is my prayer that my girls will stand for education, peace, and justice rather than image, fame, and celebrity. It is my prayer that my daughters will be Malala girls in a Miley world.


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