In which my efforts to re-stimulate my daughter’s interest in reading are just a little bit too stimulating.
[I am back to blogging, at my daughter’s behest, after a long (2 year!) hiatus. Jessie is now 25, still dancing with Propeller Dance, still dating Drummer Boy (who has morphed into muscleman, but more on that in the next blog), and getting ready to move out. It’s been a bumpy road, but she is still keen, for some reason, for me to blog about her transitioning and my particular challenges in teaching her anything! I have a whole long list of parenting fails since the last time I wrote, but let’s just start with the most recent].
While Jessie used to be an avid reader, she now prefers to devour episodes of Say Yes to the Dress or Buffy the Vampire Slayer on YouTube. She is beyond the age where I can make her do anything that might be good for her, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. And failing. You think I might learn at some point, but this letting go is a difficult business (even with therapy). My most recent parenting fail on this front was particularly epic. I share it with you to let you feel much better about your own parenting skills. You’re welcome.
Jessie learned to read when she was about 5 years old (using perhaps the very first edition of Patricia Oelwein’s Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome) and was an avid reader—devouring first Frog and Toad, then Beatrix Potter (hence her bizarre vocabulary), then Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea, and anything by Stephanie Calmenson. There were a whole slew of books read in our local library’s Mother-Daughter book club, and of course the Harry Potter series when it first came out, and then Ella Enchanted, and Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I do have to say that reading is highly valued in our house: Jessie learned to pull herself up on a bookshelf, to pull things down from a bookshelf, and to stack things on a bookshelf. Our house is filled with books—on tables, under chairs, in boxes, and sometimes even in bookshelves. It is a habit or an addiction, depending on your point of view.
So you can imagine our despair when, towards the end of high school, Jessie just sort of gave up on books and transitioned easily and totally to the Internet. TV was (and is still!) limited to set times in our house. As is the Internet, except as it relates to work (for Jessie, that means advocacy or dance). Perhaps this was her way of stating her individuality, or maybe she was just needing to put less effort into her down time. Whatever the impetus, it was not something I wanted to add to our list of things over which to fight. I did, however, keep picking up books that I thought she might like from the library or the bookstore, and left them lying around on the coffee table or in her room. So in addition to her Archie comic addiction (fed on the same now falling apart compilations over breakfast), she did read (and loved) Wicked, The Notebook, the biography of Taylor Swift, and Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. But it’s been a while since we found a book that appeals.
So, you will have to forgive me if, last week, when she and I were at the downtown main library, I quickly perused the “new releases” and “recommended” sections and came across what looked like a quick summer read. It looked romantic (see for yourself). And the author was a so-called “best” seller. And I thought it was from the young adult section. Really. So it would be appropriate, right? And would fit right in to the romantic life she is leading and aspires to.
So we took it out.
Then, that evening, the inimitable Gray sisters came over (Jessie’s friends “since elementary school,” and an integral part of both her our lives) and were, of course (in their campy and curious way), intrigued by this book sitting on the coffee table. They picked it up and began to read out loud. And then louder and louder. And Jessie yelled “NO!” and covered her ears.
That’s when I walked in. In my apron, my hands covered in whatever I was preparing for dinner. And I said, innocently, “I picked that up for Jess, I thought she might like it.”
And they said: “YOU picked it up for Jessie? Do you even know what this is Nancy?”
“A book?” I knew I was on thin ground here, but I wasn’t sure why.
“It’s erotica! You got erotica for Jessie! Listen!” And they began to read me the opening paragraph. Which I can’t even copy here because it would, well, not be fit for family consumption. Let’s just say it involved flesh and seduction and maybe even a few shades of gray. In graphic detail.
In my defense, I had read the back cover: Breathe Into Me is a story about a broken girl called, Lacey. She has a stalker ex-boyfriend, a bad reputation, and not really much else going right in her life. Enter gorgeous Everett..... He's dropped into town to house-sit a mansion..... He's drawn to Lacey and wants to show her how good life can be. Can. She. Trust. Him??? Now that kind of sounds Twilight-ish, doesn’t it?
The girls, all three of them, could not stop laughing:
“You got Jessie porn! You got your daughter porn! O. M. G!”
“You got me porn Mom!” Jessie yelled, both embarrassed and delighted.
“Just wait ‘til I tell ….”
I made her promise NOT to tell my mother.
And then I made sure it was Dan, not I, who returned it to the library. After all, I have a reputation to maintain.