Let’s talk about being a parent.
When my daughter had just learned how to read I suddenly realized that the headlines of the tabloids were now accessible to her as we waited in line at the grocery store. I had a little talk with her about how those kinds of publications were different than newspapers like the Baltimore Sun, and that they sometimes twisted or stretched the truth, or downright made things up. So, I said, full of the wisdom of a young parent determined to raise a child with discerning critical thinking skills, “If you see anything on those papers that you don’t understand, I want you to feel comfortable asking me about it.”
The very next time we were in the grocery store, on a day that was rather quiet in the checkout line, my daughter’s sweet young voice piped up with confidence.
“Mom? What’s ‘kinky sex’?”
Be careful what you wish for.
My definition, an on-the-spot, off-the-top-of-my-head explanation for a six year old, went something like this:
“You know how you like chocolate bars? Chocolate bars are really good, aren’t they? Well, when people use that word kinky it’s kind of like saying that there are people who can enjoy the chocolate bar only if they stole it. That’s what makes it special to them.”
There was more, and I’m hoping it was a little better than that, but remember: we were in the checkout line, paying, and carrying grocery bags and I was thinking on my feet. At the time I was pretty darned proud of myself. Now I look back and wince a little. (Okay, maybe a lot.) What’s more important is that this was only one conversation of many conversations about sex and other difficult-to-talk-about topics. I don’t think I ruined her life. You’d have to ask her, of course. She’s thirty four.
Yesterday I came across this quote shared in honor of Banned Books Week:
That’s it. Sometimes as parents we encounter something that makes us fearful for our children because we think it may hurt them and we have a strong emotional reaction that it’s our job to protect them. In many ways it is our job to protect our children. That’s no lie. But there’s a big difference between something like contaminated drinking water or unsafe streets and books in a library.
Now let’s talk about Banned Books Week. (September 26 - October 2nd) It’s almost over, but its observance in Howard County has been marred by some parents who had read something on social media about some other parents in Fairfax, Virginia who were really angry about a book in their adolescent child’s school library. In some circles this topic has surpassed denying that there’s racism in Howard County as the outrage du jour.
And, verily, I say unto you: this stems from a strong emotional reaction to something that makes these parents fearful and uncomfortable. It taps into a primal fear that says, “here is something threatening and potentially dangerous.” Their subsequent reaction would be more in line with responding to an oncoming car or a wild animal attack.
This is a problem.
And here’s another one: when we talk about school libraries, your child is not the only one in the school. Your child will by design have a school library that is composed of books meant to meet the needs of all kinds of children in their school community. That’s truly what libraries are supposed to do. Librarians/Media Specialists are highly trained, extremely well-educated, inquisitive, responsive, and community-minded. In the case of school librarians, their community is the school. They work together with other librarians in the school system to make the most age-appropriate/developmentally appropriate selections to serve the students that will be using and learning in their libraries.
We as parents make decisions with the aim of caring for and protecting our own children. We are not given the power to control the whole world to make it the kind of world that we want our children to see. Honestly, there have been times that I have wished that I could. But that’s not the way things work. Our task as parents is to love, support, and inform our children in a way that will prepare them to grow into healthy and whole human beings.
More tomorrow. Also…
Duhn duhn DUHN!
…another educational story from my own parenting experience.