I have a thirteen year old boy. He, by definition, is a teenager. I blame his friends for turning him into the moody sarcastic boy I sometimes encounter. When I call him on it and tell him to straighten up, he usually gives me a remorseful look and says sweetly, “Sorry, Mom.”
Lately, he has been bugging me to read the Game of Thrones books. Granted, I have not actually read any of these books. Fantasy is not my genre of choice, although, there are quite few fantasy books that I have read and loved. So, I am mostly basing my decisions on the first two seasons of the television show that I have weathered through.
My husband assures me that the books don’t have the emphasis on sex that the show does, but his opinions are less than stellar when it comes to what’s appropriate for kids. (Although, I think most of us parents have made the mistake of allowing something we thought was fine, because we had forgotten what things were like. Turns out Airplane, although funny, is not really a kid’s movie.) Even without the sex, the treachery and violence is something I’m not comfortable having my thirteen year old exposed to. I’ve argued with my husband about this and he insists that I’m not allowed to put my foot down unless his is down too.
Here is my solution to the problem. My son likes to read, but he doesn’t read a lot of heavy books. He’s in the accelerated program at school. (I’m so proud!) But his strength lies in Math and not English or Language Arts or whatever they are calling it this year. So while many of his friends were devouring all the Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Alex Rider books, he was reading Captain Underpants, The Magic Pickle and Bone books. I have to admit, these books are quite funny. My son definitely gets his love of humor from me. He has read all the How to Train Your Dragon books, all the Septimus Heap books, most of the Artemis Fowl Books and he was into the Tunnels books for a while, so it’s not like he doesn’t read. I finally got sick of him asking me everyday when I thought he would be old enough to read the Game of Thrones books.
I made a deal with my son.
This is the deal, put down in writing: I told him if he finished reading all the Harry Potter books (he’s read the first one or two), all the Eragon books (he’s read the first one or two), all The Chronicles of Prydain (The Black Cauldron, etc.) books, all the Lord of the Rings books and all of The Chronicles of Narnia books, then I would let him read the Game of Thrones books. We have almost all of these books sitting on the shelf at home, so he could have read them at any time. Granted this is a daunting task, but not unreasonable. If he really wanted to read the Game of Thrones books that badly, he could make it through these other books in a timely enough fashion.
I also have the caveat that when he finishes reading those books, I’m going to have a talk with him about positive and negative images and ideas and how they affect us as individuals. You can’t unsee or unread something you have seen or read. Some images remain in your mind forever and playback at times when we are most vulnerable to them. I didn’t tell him that we would be having this little talk, but it’s there in the back of my mind.
My son thought this was fair. Bonus is that he has now stopped asking me to read these books. He knows the deal and he’s willing to stick to it. I think the main reason for him asking, really had more to do with him trying to look cool to his friends, than on him actually wanting to read the Game of Thrones books. He could either complain to his friends that his mom wouldn’t let him read them, or he could brag that his parents would let him read them. Now he can’t do either, it all depends on him. If he goes off to college and he still hasn’t finished his book list, at that point, I’m not going to worry about it. In the meantime, he has started reading The Book of Three, so we’ll see how that goes.
Do your kids ask you to read books you think are inappropriate? Did you read books when you were younger that you probably shouldn’t have? How did that affect you? What books do you recommend for kids and what ages? Do you have a favorite book that you read when you were a teen? I’d love to read your comments!