Jul 252013
 

I clicked through to a post this morning that was supposed to be about censoring books. I’ve had Trevor’s Song censored so many times because of its language, I like to be able to laugh it off with fellow authors.

But man, did this post set me off. It was a different sort of censorship.

The author was talking about how she’d published some romances with some sensual or sexual scenes (to what level of sensuality/sexuality, I don’t know) under her own name. Her husband wasn’t thrilled with her choice, because this woman has standing in her community.

She’d brushed him off — and been shocked to discover teens she was familiar with were reading her books. Sex scenes and all.

Her contention was that we parents should be censoring what our kids read.

Now, if you’ve been hanging around my blog for any length of time, you’ve noticed that on Tuesdays, one or the other of my kids likes to blog.

I have read very few of the books they blog about.

To put it simply: I don’t have time. Both kids can read a book in two days during the school year. Less during the summer. Teen Girl Rocks and Reads, as she calls herself, isn’t a teen yet. And she has fallen in love with the ease of Overdrive and her iPod. For her, the iPod is a book depository first and a toy second.

So let’s take a look. Two kids, who each devour books. One mom, a single parent who owns a successful, growing business, who runs the household, who is active in her community, and who has her own life. (pretty much in that order, too.)

Do the math.

Go on. Maybe your head won’t explode like mine just did.

So now I’m going to say something that might be unpopular with the helicopter crowd, but here it is: as parents, our job is to instill values in our kids. When my daughter downloaded a book with sexual content that made her uncomfortable (and hadn’t been hinted at in the book description, she claimed), she simply hit delete. No muss, no fuss. She didn’t even tell me about it until I asked her about a kissing scene in a book I’d recommended to her. When she fessed up, I shrugged it off. She’d done the right thing, as far as I was concerned.

Think about it: she saw something she didn’t like, and she walked away.

For me, that’s the greatest success I could have as a parent. She handled a situation with no drama and no demands that Mom come to the rescue and delete the book so she didn’t have to look at it ever again. She didn’t inform me she was never reading another book, never using Overdrive. Nothing. She just said she wished that the information had been in the book description. If she had known, she wouldn’t have downloaded it.

Yes, my kids are still young enough to need some protection from the world. Absolutely. But on the flip side, I dashed down to a small town half an hour from my home yesterday to pick up my son, who got off a charter bus 10 days after I’d last seen him. We’d had contact once, when he’d asked me to send him a care package.

He was at the Boy Scout National Jamboree. He spent days with new friends I’d never met, led by two men I’d never met (and two I know well), walking in the woods, managing his own schedule, his own cleanliness (a shout-out to the other Scout parents who now chuckle at the words ambient shower), laundry, money, responsibility, and even a day devoted to giving back to the West Virginia community at large.

Even if I had been one of the adult leaders on-site, I couldn’t be there to protect him. To warn him before the many thunderstorms rolled in, or tell him when it was safe to go back out. I wasn’t there to make sure he handled guns safely, or had his harness attached to the zip line properly. Those are the sorts of things that, as a Scout, he is expected to know and be attentive to on his own, even before the staff checked to make sure he was following protocol.

In short: the Scouts instill values in him, values that help him make smart choices.

As a parent, I have tried to instill values in both my kids. And when I see my daughter quietly walk away from a book with content she isn’t comfortable with, I know that while I may have hugely failed in other areas, at least in this one, I’ve been a success.

So, no. I won’t censor what my kids read. I’ll gladly read anything they tell me is worth my time and that they want to share or discuss with me. I’ll let them make their own decisions, and I’ll take a deep breath and let it out each time those decisions prove I was right to trust them.

I got that proof with my son and Jamboree. I got that proof with my daughter and that book.

For all my missteps as a parent — and some have been huge — I know I am doing something right. There’s no going backward from here.

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  2 Responses to “Censoring and Making Choices”

  1. I agree, Susan. One friend, a father of four, says he and his wife use the “funnel” philosophy. Exert firm control during the early years and ease up over time, as the children demonstrate they have internalized good values and behavior. The simple truth is that once a kid hits their teens, a parent’s control is limited unless you plan to keep Junior locked in a closet. Even pre-internet, there were kids who circulated books and photos that weren’t exactly age -appropriate. To imagine that a parent can keep a kid in complete innocence in this era is delusional. All you can do is instill good values so that your kid rolls her eyes in annoyance and hits the delete key.

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