“But everything is educational! Children are always learning,” was my confused reply.
(In my sister in law’s defense, I think she was referring to electronic teaching toys, not the magnetic alphabet I’d wanted to buy.)
I still believe that children are influenced by everything they see and hear, touch and feel. Images once seen are not unseen. Blows -physical or emotional – felt are not unfelt. Words heard are not unheard.
As parents, my husband was ready to agree with this theory when it came to television. Less agreeable about music, he wanted to cling to the idea that nobody really pays attention to lyrics. That only works until your child sings them, clearly knowing every word.
When it comes to books, though, he’s of the, “At least they’re reading,” mindset. I don’t believe there’s a good excuse for filling a child’s (or an adult’s) mind with garbage, regardless of how the trash is delivered. Because I love reading so much myself, trashy books seem more influential to me than trashy television.
For most of our 22 year of parenting, it didn’t come up. One of my sons was an avid reader; the other was not. Their literary lows came in elementary school with Star Wars novels and Captain Underpants.
My daughter, however, is drawn to trashy teen supernatural romance novels. It’s the trashy teen romance part that bothers me. I’m 97% certain she wants to read them because they are what her friends read at school – just like she listens to the music her friends listen to and wishes she could watch the tv shows they watch. (Their influence wanes in summer, and we are back to her own personal obsessions.)
In theory, I almost like the idea of reading the books with her, to discuss and dissect them. That would be a wonderful way to address my concerns or to ruin the book for her. The truth is, I don’t want to read that trash. (I do skim through books before rejecting them, and, yes, sometimes she reads books at school she knows I’d reject.)
Part of me wishes I could just let her be. I tell myself, “She is who she is. Some people like Jane Eyre; some people read Harlequin romances.” I say, “Lots of women read trash. They’re not all doomed to bad relationships, are they?”
Then she tells me about another friend collapsing in the middle school bathroom in tears admitting she’s been cutting and not eating because her boyfriend dumped her, or was arrested at the Seven-11, and I decide to stick with my old philosophies.
She can be herself after I’ve given her time to figure out who she is.