Good Words

Friends, my playlist is about to get a major Mama makeover.

Elliott and I have never been the kind of parents to keep our preferred music away from our son. Sure, some of the content got watered down once little man’s ears started to pick up on words, but we never fully converted our music of choice over to a Kidz Bop-approved variety.

Over the last year or so, Brooks – our son who is now five years old – has taken a special interest in singing along with me to the songs that are on my playlist. We sing in the car, he sings along with the music while I work out or while we run down back country roads. It’s kind of become our thing. When we get to the songs that are filled with uplifting messages – messages that reinforce our faith or encourage self-confidence – I always say, “Listen, buddy! These are good words.”

After a few months of me reminding him to pay close attention to the lyrics in certain songs, Brooks has now started to ask me, “Mommy, are these good words?” when he hears a familiar tune. And I love when I can say yes. I love when I can tell him, without any fear or hesitation about what his little ears might be about to receive, that these are absolutely good words that are filled with truth, words that I want him to carry with him.

But I can’t always say yes. And over the last few weeks, as he has started to ask me this question more often, I have struggled more and more with my responses. My hot-mess-mama answers usually go something like this: “Well buddy, these aren’t BAD words, but they’re not really good words, like the good words in the other songs…but they’re not bad…they’re just not good.”

Don’t worry, I’m not offering classes in graceful parenting anytime soon. Bless.

Needless to say, as we have started to talk about song lyrics more and more, I have become increasingly aware of the music we listen to together. Thankfully some of his favorite songs are ones that I want to sing over him daily – songs that contain truth that I want to seep into the fabric of who he is and help shape who he becomes. Songs like “Best News Ever” by Mercy Me, “Look Up, Child” by Lauren Daigle, and “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman. These are good, good words that I want my little man to grab hold of and keep with him.

But, for better or for worse, his mama loves country music. And she’s also been known to play an inappropriate song or two when she’s needed a motivational boost for a long run or a hard workout. So sue me.

This is where, in my nonexistent (thank heavens) parenting class, I would teach you the technique of “The Shoutover.” We would play a fun country song – let’s use “Simple” by Florida Georgia Line for our hypothetical situation – and we would happily sing along together for the first half of the song with no concerns. And when we got to the second verse, I would demonstrate for you how to properly shout over the bad word for the sake of your child’s sweet, innocent ears. It would go something like this:

“We used to live on Instagram, worried about who all gave a DARN about where we’ve been and where we ended up…”

The problem here is that this isn’t a hypothetical situation. This, in fact, is the way I have taught my child to sing this song. I realize that he probably shouldn’t be listening to it at all…I’m sure there is some rule in the Guide to Being a Good Mama that forbids your five-year-old son from being in the same room as songs that contain profanity. I get it.

But y’all, he loves it. If you were to ask him what his favorite song is, most days he would tell you it’s this song. (He would quite literally say, “Simple, S-I-M-B-L,” because he thinks that’s what they’re saying when they sing-spell the word. And it makes him so happy.)

And so we’ve rocked on this way for a while now, singing “Simple” together, shouting out the bad word and spelling the title of the song with a “B” instead of a “P.” And then today, he stopped shouting out “DARN” in order to cover up the bad word. I was shouting all by myself; there was no little man voice shouting with me from the back seat. And halfway through our second time singing it on the way home from church, he looked at me and said, “Mommy, I said damn.”

As a mama to a little guy, I knew this day would get here eventually. And I subconsciously assumed I would handle it with a heaping dose of southern sass, and get all high pitched and loud and take all of his toys away or something equally horrific.

But I was calm. And I quietly told him that I never wanted to hear that word come out of his mouth again, and that we couldn’t listen to “Simple” anymore. Because as upset as I was with him for saying the word, I realized that my true disappointment was with myself. I was the one that introduced the word to him. I brought it into his world. And I thought if I shouted out loudly enough every time it was on, maybe he wouldn’t really ever know what they were saying.  

After we got inside, I held his face in my hands, and I told him that what we listen to is a lot like what we eat. I told him that it’s so important that we fill our ears with words that are good for our hearts and minds, just like we fill our mouths with foods that are healthy for our bodies.

And friends, I believe this isn’t just a lesson for a little man. It’s a lesson for all of us. Sure, this too shall pass. My son isn’t ruined forever just because a profane word – that he doesn’t even understand – made its way across his lips. I know that. But this experience has brought a valuable teaching moment for Brooks, and a welcome reminder for his mama, that the content we absorb affects us. In ways big and small, it shapes us. We are sponges that soak up whatever it is that we allow ourselves to be around, so we must be intentional in our selections.

And it’s about so much more than just song lyrics. If we consistently surround ourselves with negativity, we will find our words becoming more tinged with criticism, sass and condemnation. If we listen to music, or the language of friends, that is filled with profanity, our minds will be far more likely to call up these words when choosing our speech patterns. If we surround ourselves with people who turn to unhealthy things in order to manage stress, we will find ourselves reaching for those same unhealthy things in order to manage our own. If we allow voices to enter our lives who tear us down, who make us feel unloved and unworthy, we start to believe the lies – and then we start to live them out.

We become what we consume, in the biggest ways and in the smallest. And on this everchanging path toward becoming the best mama – and the best human – I can be, my new challenge for myself is to seek out good words. To speak them, sing them and pray them daily over my family. To replace the words that I want to shout over with words of love, grace, peace, affirmation. To give my boy the tools he needs to hold good words in his heart and to speak them to everyone he meets. It’s not about a list of “bad words” – what we’re not “allowed” to say. It’s about learning to be so filled with goodness, that our mouths overflow with the beauty of what’s inside of us. No more shouting over the noise of what we don’t want to hear, and more of the gentle rhythm of the language of grace. Good words in, good words out. Let it be so – one song, one playlist, one teachable moment at a time. Thank heavens for grace. And for good words. This mama needs a whole lot of them both.


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