A to Z Challenge 2013

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday Discussions - Parental Obligations

My friend Shaun Hutchinson has launched an interesting discussion today, based on an article in the Wall Street Journal.  Before I launch into my take on the subject (or rather my offshoot discussion on the subject), I'll give you time to go check out the article itself as well as Shaun's post.

Cue Jeopardy music

Okay, everyone caught up now?  If you decided not to burden yourself with reading the article, I'll quickly summarize.  The author of the article is lamenting about the more dark nature of YA books these days and Shaun's post is a rebuttal (kind of).  As you can see from my comment on Shaun's post, I tend to agree with his thoughts on the subject.

But this post is kind of an off-shoot discussion.  From my perspective (as a parent AND a writer), the problem of whether YA books are too dark or not is irrelevant.  The idea itself can be argued both ways, and there are understandable reasons for why (cultural and societal changes, acceptability of profanity as a norm by many, etc).  What is more important to me is the discussion of parental responsibility.

See, I'm one of those people who feel parents are completely responsible for everything their child is involved with (to the age of 18 anyway).  Even when the parent isn't aware of a particular situation (i.e.  a kid making pipe bombs in the basement), the parent is still responsible.  It's part of being a parent, whether we like it or not.  It behooves us then to be deeply involved with whatever our child is doing, even when being that way might seem intrusive at times.  I don't care if my sons are mad that I ask what they're reading every time they pick up a book.  There is no expected right to privacy in my household (even though I do grant them a level of privacy all the time).

When it comes to what books my sons are reading, I know because I talk to them about their book choices.  I ask them their thoughts on a given story.   In other words, my kids and I communicate all the time.  Strange concept these days maybe, but I believe in it whole-heartedly.  And though it's possible they could be reading something I'm not aware of, I find it doubtful.  You see, my kids actually like that I show interest in what they read and what their opinions are, so I don't believe they mind when I intrude on their choices.

I guess my point is that instead of bemoaning the dark nature of YA literature these days, we should be helping to guide parents towards being more actively involved with their kids.  Authors will write whatever they want to write and publishers will continue to publish it, but if it's unacceptable reading for your kids and you have guided them away from it, it becomes a non-issue.

And speaking of Shaun, I am going to be actually meeting him in person (hopefully) when my family travels down to Florida next week.  Yep, I'm going to be basking in the Florida sunshine starting next Sunday, and sometime during our 10 day visit (at Disneyworld, no less) I may be lucky enough to meet the incredibly talented Mr. Hutchinson.  Maybe some of his awesome skills will rub off on me, huh?  I don't know what I'm more excited about, getting to see Mickey with my kids or being able to introduce them to Shaun.

I'm hoping for a lively discussion of the topic at hand though, so feel free to step up on a soapbox in the comments.  Even if you disagree with me, feel free to say so.  I don't take anything personally.  Oh, and if you haven't entered my contest for a free copy of Across The Universe, get over there and do so.  Time is running out.


Matthew MacNish said...

Here is the bottom line, for me, on this entire subject.

As a father (of two girls, 10 and 15) I'll let them read any damn thing they take interest in. If it's something I'm concerned about, or covers a topic that I'm worried will confuse or disturb them, I read the book myself. It's shocking, I know, for a parent to be involved in his children's lives to that level, but I find it works out very well when they have questions, or something bothered them.

If I've read the book we can discuss it like intelligent human beings.

Not that you were arguing for anything different. Excellent post, thanks, Eric.

WindyA said...

OMG THANK YOU! This is one of the best posts ever on this topic! My kidlets are only 5 & 3 right now, but I've gone through this with my younger sister (who's almost 20 now). My parents came here from another country and while their English is fine for communicating, reading is difficult at times and especially subtle nuances of slang and other things in literature make it hard for them to understand. That being said, I've been the one who's had the conversations with her about books and topics and while no book is off limits (because that in and of itself is asking for trouble - you just don't FORBID Lol!), I always make sure to have conversations with her about the books - most of which I've read first, but some she will read and then pass on to me so we can have discussions.

And I completely agree - being a parent is about being responsible. It's about "BEING A PARENT." Books can help and inform, but when it comes down to it, if you're going to start pointing fingers, I think about what I was taught in elementary school ... every time you point a finger at someone else ... there's at least three fingers pointing back at you.

Sorry for the super long comment. Great post!

ali said...

Hi Eric! This was excellent. Truly. I'm with you and Matt and Windy on this!

And hey, don't forget to put up your POSSESSION bloghop post today so you can have a chance to win one of the three signed books Windy, Nichole and I have to give away!

Eric said...

Matthew - I can't say I'll let mine read anything they are interested in, but pretty much anything. I do agree with you though, that discussing books is mandatory for a parent.

Windy - Awww, ty Windy. You are right, you never forbid a book. You do have to explain why it might not be appropriate however, IMHO. And never apologize about long comments. This is exactly what I was hoping for - lively discussion.

Ali - Thank you. Hopefully my post yesterday was good enough :)