It truly was a dad moment. Harry Connick Jr., amazing musician, husband, father of three daughters and all-around nice guy, recently asked an “American Idol” contestant, who had just turned 18, to repeat the first line of the song she just sang.
“You got me down on the floor, so what you got me down here for,” she replied.
He asked her if she really wanted to be singing about, you know, being down on the floor.
The camera cut to her parents sitting in the audience.
She squirmed a bit more and then said something along the lines of why yes, she did want to sing about being “down on the floor, so what you got me down here for” because it was about women, power and what women want.
The audience roared, and her parents beamed.
The dad in Connick had trumped the entertainer and celebrity in him. He didn’t flinch. In challenging the girl with a pointed question, he was actually
attempting to protect her. That’s a brave move in today’s world.
We’re an odd lot. We strive to give kids the best schools, the best experiences, brag that they’re talented and ahead of the curve, yet shrink from asking basic questions that reveal whether they can follow simple logic.
If you’re down on the floor when you’ve barely turned 18, where do you think you’ll be at 19?
We do better with friend mode than dad mode or mom mode. Friend mode is comfortable, less confrontational. Yet asking kids pointed questions helps them connect the dots. It’s nothing new. It’s the same way Socrates taught Plato.
The thing about pop culture is that it demands such strict allegiance that few have the courage to question it. If you don’t think pop culture inflicts a suffocating sameness, note that gaggle of girls at the mall, the ones striving for individuality, yet pressed into conformity. They’re all wearing the same leggings, the same boots and twirling the same highlighted hair.
We sidestepped much of pop culture when our kids were young simply because so much of it was (and still is) coarse and vulgar. They were cheeky enough without the encouragement of Bart Simpson.
Were we protective? Without apology.
When they were older and ready to date, we protected them again.
Boys interested in spending time with our girls were often invited to dinner. We would tease that three out of the five members of our family belonged to the NRA. They’d laugh a nervous laugh, which is what we were going for. The message was, “We’re a fun family, but don’t do anything stupid, son.”
A graduating high school senior once said that of all the girls he dated, we were the only parents who had ever talked to him.
Was parent mode ever interpreted as aggressive? Yes.
Did it cause conflict? On occasion.
Are children worth it? Absolutely.
When a lovely young woman croons about being down on the floor, someone needs to slip into dad mode. Someone needs to ask her hard questions and let her know that she’s worth so much more.
Lori Borgman is an Indianapolis columnist. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.