-posted by guest blogger Andie Cunningham
My daughter wants to read Twilight.
After she asked if that would be okay, a long, outward silence muffled my inner scream. My ten- soon to-be-eleven- year-old wants to read THAT book? Less than two months ago, she was partway through Where the Red Fern Grows, happily immersed in the land of redbone hounds and ‘coons and coming of age. Then the final Percy Jackson and The Olympians books by Rick Riordan landed in her hands, and her focus immediately shifted. I figured she would return to the land of the Ozarks right after she finished with the Greek Gods. Boy, was I wrong.
Twilight conversations are not new to us. This past spring, I listened to Alysa consider reading Twilight. Many an afternoon on our walk home from school, Alysa shared how a classmate was reading the series, and she shared tantalizing details every so often. Alysa didn’t respond with much excitement to the parts the classmate was sharing. While she likes to be a little frightened, she doesn’t get to jazzed about being downright terrified and she couldn’t tease out what the book was really about. How exciting can a love story be, Alysa asked. Plus, her classmate had told her that there was a detailed love scene, something Alysa tells us she just passes by when she reads other texts with sexual activity (like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series). All I heard was a little bit of reporting out from my dear sweet young daughter and a confirmation that she was not interested in reading the vampire story.
I am not one to censor my daughter’s reading material, but this is the first time when I seriously wondered if I should. That defining “moment” came late at night, as she and I were reading before bedtime. Nighttime is often the magical moment for Alysa, one of those times when she capitalizes on asking one more question, and often ones of great import. As we read, I heard her quiet voice call out to me. I turned to her and listened as she proceeded to ask if she could read Twilight.
And I thought this idea had passed us by. Ha, some parent I am! Time slowed as I considered my response. Sarcasm rapidly gave way to reality in my mind, and I knew what my answer had to be. I knew I had to stand by her as she continued to explore literature. I also knew I had to change that sarcasm tendency hanging out in my head to even hold a hope that she would continue to talk with us about her current reading adventures.
Paving Stones For The Path
My permission giving was only a trinket of the reality that followed. What I came to learn about Alysa helped me find grounding in my parenting and in my understanding of why we read what we read. I also realized that this was one of those parenting moments when we learn as much about our children as we do about ourselves. Here are some of the more detailed groundings that helped me gain footing as a parent.
*I trusted Alysa to learn to read, and miraculously she did. I told her then that I trusted her, and I truly believed that she would put the pieces together to be a reader when she was ready several years ago. The decision to read Twilight is an edge for her, and this is another time when I need to encourage her. I have to both tell her and show her how I believe in her ability to choose effectively what she reads and what she doesn’t.
*When I do my best parenting, I listen and wonder with Alysa. I can make opportunities to listen into her comments, ask her questions, and journey with her into this new risk. Finding a way to communicate with Alysa as she reads new and challenging (to me this time) will be crucial.
*Allow myself to not read what she is reading but still be active. Even if I don’t want to read what she is reading, I can still listen to her sense making with open ears. In fact, this is a time when I have to be even more careful about listening without judging. That being said, I can still participate in her reading. Ask her questions about where she is at in her reading, what connections she is making, what is exciting to her about the book.
*Celebrate when my partner wants to read one of the books. Celebrate again when they want to watch the movie together! Believe the heavens have opened when they read the series together.
*Open to what is possible. I find it important to hold onto my own belief that Where the Red Fern Grows is a terrific read. Maybe Alysa will return to the Wilson Rawls’ pinnacle text sometime soon.
A Reframed Mind
At first I thought I should pray like crazy this passes, but now I am not so sure. Rather, I pray that she finds her way to be a thoughtful, literate human, finding supportive places to talk about the books she reads. What Alysa was really asking me that night before Twilight was if I trusted her, if I believed in her enough to confidently agree that she can decide what books are right for her. That specific moment was a critical one for our relationship.
What was risky reading for me as a teen is still risky reading. The truth is that each of us enters reading from our own realities, and our growth edges are as individual as we are. Although I was not excited about Alysa reading a book with potentially inappropriate content, I knew nothing about the text she sought to read. My only knowledge about it came from what others had told me or what I had read in reviews and blogs. I was aware more of the potential for sending messages to Alysa that de-form rather than inform who she is and her purpose in life. I’m glad she chose to read Twilight. Even more, I am glad she invited me to trust her to lead the way one more time.
Editor’s Update: Alysa read Twilight. Andie survived. And asked Alysa to write a review of Twilight for us so you can find out what she thought. Check out Alysa’s recomendation for The Twilight Saga.