I didn’t even think twice about my 8-year-old daughter reading the Twilight series until I made a post-holiday stop at the bookstore.
“Do you have anything similar to like Harry Potter, Sisters Grimm, or um, Twilight, with better writing?” I chuckled while asking the young woman working in the kids’ section.
“That’s not something I hear from parents with little kids,” she replied. “That’s mostly a teen book!”
I wrinkled my eyebrows at her, though I wasn’t that surprised. Ever since my daughter started reading it and I told a few people, I’ve gotten similar reactions.
That’s not the first time someone has questioned my parenting choices for my 8-year-old.
“Well, it’s actually pretty low-key,” I replied. And really, it is. I mean, Bella and Edward don’t even have sex until the fourth book and even then, it’s not anything to write home about. Well, at least it wasn’t in the movie, anyway.
And considering the violence and scary stuff in Harry Potter, which she loved, a family of friendly vampires and a young couple in love is like child’s play.
But that’s not the first time someone has questioned my parenting choices for my 8-year-old. Just a few weeks ago, we left her with an iPod Touch so she could text us while we were away overnight, a first time for us.
After my daughter's tearful phone call about us leaving her with my mother-in-law, I figured I could easily set her (and us) at ease by letting her text us. And it worked well. Then when I returned to find her begging me for apps, I took the iPod back, reserving it for special occasions, but not before we endured a night full of criticism from people at the holiday party we were attending.
“You let her text? How old is she?” They made it sound as if I were committing some terrible parenting sin—this coming from parents with tiny kids, by the way. I could just hear the silent “I’d never do that!” emanating from the look on their faces.
With four kids, you can bet I’ve endured all sorts of parenting judgments over the years, and yes, I’ve even dished out a few of my own. And it’s easy to do, mind you, when your kids aren’t actually going through what you’re judging. We can look at the mom of a near-tween reading a seemingly adult book and wag our fingers when our kids are still in diapers and can barely talk, let alone read.
But when you’re the one with the tween or teen or the very mature 8-year-old, then you realize that it’s a little different when you’re in the trenches.
As many times as I have said, “I’d never do that!” through my own facial expressions and even out loud, it’s because there’s no earthly way to predict how your toddler is going to be when she gets older.
And whereas before you were parenting in “what-ifs,” you have to begin parenting in the “right now,” which is much more challenging, even heart-wrenching. Just imagine the moment you realize that everything you thought you would never do because it seemed so outrageous and ridiculous is actually what you should do. Talk about completely and utterly mind-blowing.
I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with having values and standards that you wish to uphold with your kids when they get older. But we also have to realize that we’re dealing with little humans, not robots. Life is fluid and ever-changing—not just within ourselves and our own home, but also in the world around us.
Parenting is all about picking battles. It used to be about wearing socks on a cold day or not leaving the house in pajamas. Is it really worth the tantrum? Some choices, like the Barbie Dream House that you vowed you would buy only, “Over my dead body!” are completely harmless.
Others are much more important and worth standing your ground over, but those are for you to decide. And let’s be honest, most of the ones that we get up in arms about, like my kid texting us when we’re away overnight or reading Twilight books, are so small compared to the huge issues we deal with and will have to deal with on a regular basis as our kids get older.
I wish parenting could be as easy as a questionable book series. Or a few texts on a cell phone.
The judging of parenting choices will never end, but instead of worrying about it, I’m using them as a litmus test. Is what I’m doing as a parent really the best for my child? If it is, then carry on; if not, do something about it. But in the end, you’re the only one parenting your kids, and all you ever need to say, if anything at all, is: “It works for us.” Because that’s really all that matters.