I’m not the Goalie; I’m the Net

Eleanor, my 11-year-old, has recently been coming into the office and looking at my book shelf and exclaiming, “I didn’t know you had this book!” And then she takes it and is gone for the day. And she is satisfied. This makes me want to have more children. Josh jokes that Eleanor and I are on the same reading level. He’s so precious. Anyway, I realize that she’s always done this, but something is different now. Now, she’s actually at the reading level to really enjoy the book rather than just explore it. I’ve always let my girls read anything they want. This may be shocking, but I even let her read “The Lovely Bones” when she was ten. I worried a little because I found the book by her bed and didn’t get to “prepare” her for what kind of book it was. But then I thought about it. What was I going to tell her: rape and murder are bad and scary and I just wanted to warn you? It was too late anyway. I asked what she thought about the book. Honestly, I don’t remember her answer exactly. She had some questions which I answered, but I do remember that she basically understood what was happening and wasn’t scared. She got the concept, but not the enormity of the story. In fact, she put the book down for about six months before trying it again. She didn’t finish it that time either.  The point is, she learned what rape and murder are; and it didn’t damage her.

Similarly: When I was student teaching (eighth grade), I had a group of four girls that wanted to read “The Lovely Bones.” My mentor teacher contacted the parents and told them that she’d facilitate a group reading situation so they and she could talk about it. One mother said no. The girl wasn’t upset, which surprised me. That’s just downright un-teenager-y, no? Then the girl went to my mentor teacher and said, “Will you read it for me and tell me all about it?” It was endearing, and I was sad for the girl, too. I thought about  just telling her to sneak it for crying out loud, though I didn’t. But isn’t that one of the most wonderful parts of reading–when we can go become part of a story that is outside of our reality and we can explore things that aren’t safe? It’s the safest thing of all, really. Having the experience without the experience. We had another group of girls (the bad group–I’ll just say it) that year who read “Crank” and passed that book around school like crazy. My mentor teacher and I were both excited that they were reading at all. I may be naive, but I believe that they wanted the experience of a drug user without doing it themselves.

So, I’m not going to hold my kids back from reading about the  world. I’m their mom; I’m here for them. When the world gets to be too much for them, they can fall into my arms, cry it out, and know that they are loved. When they read things that are confusing and difficult–when Eleanor does finish “The Lovely Bones,”– I’ll be here to tell her how our family values fit or don’t fit with what she’s exploring, and what in the world we can do about it. Because I think that if we parents act like goalies now and block them from it, then they’ll grow up and the ball will smack them in the face.

Along the same lines, a friend of mine just turned me on to FreeRangeKids. There is an wonderful post about an author who was going to do a school visit via Skype, but couldn’t because of guidelines about the kids being seen on the Internet. A comment about that post led to a response about how the kids were losing out on an wonderful opportunity for a wild “what if” scenario. As a parent, and as a hopeful author, I loved it.

Published by jody sparks

Jody Sparks Mugele spent her first career in marketing writing and leading teams of writers and editors. After her son came out as transgender in 2015, she dedicated herself to advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. For two years, she led the Indianapolis regional chapter of PFLAG, a nationally renowned LGBTQ+ advocacy group. She has given many conference talks about parenting trans kids, healthcare in the trans community, and suicidality among LGBTQ+ youth. And with GenderNexus, an Indianapolis-based advocacy organization, she created programming and led support groups to work with parents to help their children through all aspects of gender transition. She recently moved to Northeast Georgia where she is excited to develop opportunities to continue to strongly and proudly advocate for LGBTQ+ members of our society. She also LOVES kitschy Christmas crafting!

9 thoughts on “I’m not the Goalie; I’m the Net

  1. I am really not quite sure how I feel about this. On one hand I think it sounds great. I definitely see the need and benefit for my children chose their own literature and gain independence and knowledge. On the other, my friends 6 yr. old could have read “The Lovely Bones.” If she had asked her mom, I am not sure that would have been very appropriate. Because even with an IQ of 140, I don’t think she would be ready for that subject material. Age 11 is obviously a different ball game. But, if my 11 year old son asked to read a porn magazine, I would have to decline as it is my nature to think that those women are victims. And, I know that some men become very addicted to porn early in life and their marriages suffer because of it. And, it sometimes leads to some pretty creepy stuff. I am definitely not a book banning kind of person, though.

    I realize that one cannot protect their children from everything. But, since I had virtually no protection from age 12 -18, I think some protection is nice. I wish my parents had been a goalie or net, or anything for that matter. Or maybe more like starting as goalie, and then moving around to be the net. 🙂

  2. Delaina, it’s interesting to hear your view having come from a home with “virtually no protection.” I’m trying to think about how much I was protected as a child. I think I just wasn’t as curious of a child as Eleanor (and I’m pretty sure my parents would agree). I guess what it comes down to for me is that I don’t want to block her curiosity. I want to protect her in a way that she feels loved and secure and able to recognize the “wrong” and “bad” in the world–and see that she’s different–when she does come across it.

  3. Thanks for posting this, Jody. I really enjoyed reading it. Also appreciate the comments following. I grew up with a lot of latitude to read what I wanted (even though my pastor father was very strict about many things and we rarely had television and ALWAYS had a lot of rules). I wasn’t reading porn or anything, but I definitely read books with adult subject matter, whether that be brutality, violence, war, etc. I think my parents were encouraging me to take some of this in and learn to be a critical thinker/reader, as well as becoming more aware of the world around me. I’m incredibly grateful for that–that they didn’t object when I said I wanted to read a book about the Holocaust (a HEAVY book that even now I can’t believe I was interested in at that age!) when I was eight years old. It’s a delicate balance. I always knew that if I read something that spurred questions, I could go to them, which was a comfort. Anyway…just my experience. I have no idea what I’ll do if I’m blessed with children of my own. I want them to be curious and eager to learn. I know that much.

  4. Jody,

    I think it would have been different if my parents cared one ounce. Your situation with your girls is obviously VERY different than mine. I hope you didn’t think I was comparing you. I am not. Just thinking about it. And about what type of parent I want to be. I think I worry so much since my life was so crazy. I sometimes do myself and my family in with worry. Are they in the right schools? Do they eat healthy enough? I am overcompensating in a big way. And, then I worry about overcompensating, too. 🙂

  5. I find myself on the fence on this, too. I think it depends on the kid, and what you’re concerned about them taking from the reading experience. My oldest two children pretty much read what they pleased from 8th grade on, but I would not let my 12 year old step daughter read Breaking Dawn, because I hated what it depicted about relationships, and didn’t want that “I wud die 4 u” message reinforced in any way.

    We do the best we can, I guess, and forgive ourselves when we mess it up.

    1. Kristy, the school system my children attend were reading that series with fifth graders on family reading night. 🙂 I was very worried about that message as well. And, while some girls have parents who will talk to them about that issue, some girls do not. After being in several suffocating relationships like that in high school, I know how serious of a situation it can be. I do know that some girls could handle it, though. But, I have seen 40 year old women who are obsessed with this book. It’s creepy. Saying things in reference to the Cullens such as, “that’s my family you are talking about.” And, “I need a man. I need a Vampire!” Yikes!

  6. I think you’re wise beyond your years and a gift to your girls. I feel equally as lucky to have met you and share the trials, woes, rewards and exhilaration of parenting. There’s nothing like it – and nothing like sharing it with a trusted friend…

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