The Inevitable Ouch of Being a Parent

I just finished reading Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry with my daughter Ruby.  She is in an accelerated reading group and I knew we would run into this problem.  Her reading ability is more advanced than her emotional maturity.

She’s just nine.  She loves to play with her American Girl Dolls, ride her bike, draws fairies, BELIEVES in fairies for cryin’ out loud! So when she said the latest book selected for her reading group was too sad I asked what it was about?

The Holocaust.” she says.

WTF?!? She’s nine!  Ok.. almost ten, but I don’t think she is ready for this.  I remember recently we asked the kids if they knew what the Holocaust was.  I believe she said, “No, but I sure know what Hollandaise Sauce is!”  Now you can understand her frame of reference.

“Mama, it’s too sad. And scary.  I don’t want to read it on Valentine’s Day. IT’S TOO SAD! But I have to finish it by next Wednesday.”  I said I would read it with her.  I used to read to my kids all the time, but pathetically I don’t seem to find enough time for it anymore (blogging, tweeting, face-booking).  Priority adjustment!

It’s not that thick.  How sad could it be? She already read through chapter six.. so I did a speed read for me/review for her one night to get caught up.

Crap!  The main character’s older sister died, and the kids best friend is a sweetie-pie Jewish girl.  And there are damn Nazi’s all over Copenhagen. I choked up, like 3 times the first night. My kid is all, “See what I mean?”

We skipped reading on Valentines Day.  Because that day is only for JOYLOVEANDKISSES! And chocolate. Not Nazis emmer effers.

So after our love filled day off, we hit the book again. Curled up together. Sometimes she read. Sometimes I read.  She’s really good at reading aloud. I helped her with the Scandinavian sounding words. I’m an impatient reader and will speed ahead with my eyes while my mouth is on some far back sentence. I’m smart like that. Or just impatient.

Things got heavy. Things got scary.  Children were called on to be brave and this made my heart ache so much.  Poor little dears. I hated the soldiers.  Hate.  I would read something, and you all have no idea how hard it was to NOT use some of my choice obscenities.  But I had my girl all curled up at my side and all I could do was give a tearful stink-eye to the book.

I’m so glad I read with her.  What if I hadn’t ?  What if she had to come across these scenarios, these words, with her unprepared little heart?  She would come to me confused about the hatred and cruelty of that war. She’d be in tears, I know her.  And then I’d be fumbling trying to stop the hurt.  But it would be with no reference. Like trying to help a child that you didn’t see fall, and can’t tell you where they hurt, just that it hurts. But I read it with her, and I know why it hurts, and where. So much.

So.  Now… I’m not sure if I should talk to teachers about maybe giving a heads up on books subject matter prior to the kids reading it. I want to trust them, but this seemed too heavy.  But then, maybe they know what they are doing, and are calling on my child to be brave.

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4 thoughts on “The Inevitable Ouch of Being a Parent

  1. Hey Lisa ~

    I just left a silly long response on your Facebook post 🙂

    I would definitely talk to the teacher(s). Perhaps this might be a book they could hold for a child specifically requesting the subject matter. Out of context it’s just too much, and more than a simple accelerated reading choice should bring up.

    Great that you’re impassioned enough to put words to paper (er, computer). I’m now completely terrified of the emotional leaps to come as Sofia enters kindergarten next year. Yikes!

  2. I feel your pain. It is such a fine line with wanting to shield them from all of those true horrors of the world, and letting them learn about it. You’re a good Mama for taking that journey into scary territory with her!

  3. I’ve had that book on my nightstand for six months now and haven’t had the courage to read it. And I’m pushing 40! I love Lois Lowry (especially The Giver and Gathering Blue) but every time I pick this up, I put it right back, thinking “nope. not today. too happy today. can’t go there.” (yes, I do think in all lowercase, thankyouverymuch)

    So for a 9-year-old… wow. This is the age of stories like “Where the Red Fern Grows” and “Old Yeller” and other crushing tales, but when it’s human cruelty that causes the pain it’s a whole different world of issues and angst.

    I would have a talk with the teacher about what the group goals are and what is their criteria for choosing books. The literary world is so rich in choices, I would question why they chose such a painfully difficult book for this age group. I typically think of Lowry as a 5th grade author, which might not seem to be such a great age difference, but I think a world of emotional growth happens between ages 8/9 and 10/11.

    I hope you post back with the results. Now I have to read my copy to see what they gave her!

    Glad to see you writing again,
    Jennifer

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