I started to notice it before Christmas. My boy – my reader – wasn’t reading very much anymore.
Sure – he would still grab encyclopedias and non-fiction books from the library. He would grab a few old favorite series, like these ones, but most of time he didn’t read them again once we were home.
His library stack got smaller and smaller.
I started to worry that my son, a reader since age 3, maybe wasn’t so much a reader anymore?
Other things seemed to have captured his attention – computer builds, online stuff. He seemed sort of bored and searching.
I could see that in my good moments.
In my bad moments, I just assumed that the machines were winning.
And so, in another good moment, we sat down to talk. I tried very hard not to jump on the computer thing, and instead, asked him what else he was interested in learning.
I’ve been trying to do this once a month with each of my kids. It’s an unschool-y thing. It helps me know what to focus on.
He mentioned that he wanted to read The Hunger Games series. He has friends who have read the books, and he thought they sounded good.
This was a child who was positively wrecked by The Giver. Dystopian fiction has not been A Friendly.
But that was a few years ago, and kids do a lot of growing up between 10 and almost-13. And so I told him I would give that some thought.
And then he followed up with this:
“Mom, I feel like I’ve read almost every book in the kids section at the library.”
That probably sounds like an exaggeration, but he literally started reading EVERYthing at age 3. I remember driving through a neighborhood and hearing him from the back seat, “Wow, Mama. A lot of people here are voting for John McCain.”
Eventually, I gave him free reign of the kids section. And he went bananas – read and read and read. He found books he loved and hated. He read classics and new books.
And we talked. We talked about the stuff in those books. When he read The Giver, we rode the emotional roller coaster together. He decided not to read the next books in the series – a decision I fully supported because not to be controversial here, but geez.
And so, I started to see the problem. My boy still loved books, he was just feeling like he had run out of options. He was becoming a teen, and he needed teen books.
So we started exploring the teen section of the library, and Holy Vampires, Batman.
The collection, lovingly curated by a very attentive librarian, was mostly biographies of teen heartthrobs, and books about sexy werewolves.
I could hardly believe I was sending him in there on his own. It was the literary equivalent of Tinder.
Clearly, I had a job to do.
And so the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to find books for this kid, who has been reading at an adult level almost since he learned to use the potty on his own.
And I’ve been having to think a lot about what I’m OK with.
Violence? Ummm …
“More than kissing?”
I am back to pre-reading – skimming like a mad-woman, trying to anticipate plot lines. I gave him Jurassic Park because we are all loving this read-aloud which mentions it, and I read that book when I was a teen. Maybe 14? 15?
So maybe it’s too soon.
It’s all so complicated again.
We’re doing a “book club” together, reading the same book at the same time and discussing it. When we finish, we’ll go to the coffee shop and enjoy some hot chocolate and conversation.
So is it OK to let him read the really tricky stuff, and then talk about it?
At what point will it feel safe to let go?
I recently stumbled across a really old post. Really old. This same boy was turning 7, and it was a post about letting out his birthday crown.
When the kids were little, I made them each felt birthday crowns. Eventually, I had to let each one out a little to make room for growing heads and brains. That bought us a couple more years each time.
I haven’t thought about those things in years. Years.
I know I saved them. But I don’t remember when I decided that it was time to let them go.
I know I haven’t felt guilt about it, like I do about some things.
We are on the cusp of another birthday for that boy right now, and I have a checklist of all the things to remember – sew a birthday shirt, print photos, buy a birthday book, shop for gifts, get wrapping paper, check on cake preferences, plan a special meal …
The past couple of years I’ve asked my guy if he still wants a birthday shirt. He not only says he does, but he wears the ones I make. Sweetheart.
Lately I’m asking myself why some parts of letting our kids grow up are so much easier than other parts.
The physical growth we can’t stop, I guess, but the emotional growth feels like this tender thing that I need to protect …
I bought my son The Hunger Games. He read it in a day and loved it. I saw that glimmer in his eye – he has found a new series to love.
I ordered him the second one and he lit up when I handed it to him.
He still loves to read, he was just a reader without books, and as someone who has been there, I know how easily that turns into internet scrolling and TV watching.
And so, we’ll find him books, and I’ll do my best.
It’s easy to forget that as our kids grow, we need to grow as well. We can’t parent teens and toddlers in the same way, and so we have to be able to adapt as our kids mature.
That felt so easy and right.
I know in time, big kid books will feel that way too.
As long as we keep growing up. Together.
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