Category Archives: Parenting

Parental Discretion Advised

A couple of days ago, Twitter was buzzing with tweets about banned
books. I read Nathan Bransford’s post about “where is the line between
parental discretion and censorship?
” and I agree with some commenters
that it should be parents who help kids decide what reading material
is appropriate. Removing books from the shelves because someone is
afraid her kid will happen upon a racy book — where racy is defined
by someone who may not have the same values as I do — prevents me from reading that book. Please don’t prevent me from reading stuff.

Parental discretion, when it comes to reading material and life
experiences, is obviously important. But I struggle with how much
sheltering is too much sheltering. For example, a couple of years
back, I was reading one of the Little House books aloud to my kids. At some point, the Ingalls’ dog was swept away by a raging river and presumed dead. I wanted to protect my kids from this devastating loss, so I skipped that part. Imagine my horror when the dog came back. My kids wondered why everyone was so happy to see him, when in their experience, he had never disappeared. I admitted that I’d skipped the dog’s drowning and they asked me not to skip things.

I was similarly concerned when I heard about a sad ending to one of
the Harry Potter books. My husband had been reading the series to my
daughter since she was in kindergarten and I knew she was attached to
the characters. I strongly advised my husband to figure out some way
to avoid reading that book. Distract her with another series. Buy her
a pony. But he read the book. And while my daughter was sad, she
didn’t have nearly the meltdown I’d expected. They talked about the
loss and moved on to the next book.

Now that both my kids are reading — and if I may brag, both have the
reading ability of kids three to five years older than they are — I’m
put in a position to balance reading level with material. That is, my
daughter can read at a ninth-grade level, but she’s certainly not
mature enough, as a 10-year-old, to read books written for high
schoolers. Luckily, since my kids can’t drive, their visits to the
library are supervised. They aren’t in a position to obtain grossly
inappropriate books — yet. But as a teenager, I found ways to get my
hands on that stuff and I’m sure you did, too. What then? A bridge I’m
not looking forward to crossing. I hope to cross it, however, without
the help of book-banning zealots.


Please don’t ask me what’s for dinner

I hate this question more than any other question. And not because I don’t know what’s for dinner. I always do by this time of day and usually well before this time of day. But I don’t want to tell you what’s for dinner. I hate how, upon hearing the answer, you wrinkle up your nose and squint your eyes and say, “Oh.” As in, “Yuck.” As in, “How could you make that again?”

Preparing dinner is the most thankless task of all domestic work. You might think laundry is the most thankless, but at least when you do the laundry, no one wrinkles and squints and refuses to wear the clothes you’ve just washed.

Turning it Off

Some of my writer’s block comes from not being able to toggle between two extremes: writing all the time and not writing at all. When I’m involved in a project – no matter what it is – and I’m in full-speed-ahead mode, all I can think about is the project. I feel agitated when I’m forced to do anything else. This goes for everything from cleaning out a closet to, say, writing a novel.

As a parent, I’m always being pulled away from whatever I’m doing, with little notice. So I avoid getting too entrenched in anything, lest I have to shift gears. And if I’m not entrenched, I lose interest quickly.


The rainy season began yesterday morning, held off for the Halloween costume parades and trick-or-treating, and started back up again with enthusiasm sometime in the night. It’s been raining steadily all day, and since we Californians melt if we get wet, I decided to stay in and declare National Do Nothing Day (NaDoNoDa). Do nothing other than sit on the couch next to the fake fireplace and browse around the Internet, that is.

I still haven’t added to the sad ~1300 words I wrote this morning before 10 am, but I have researched a new vacuum cleaner, stolen candy out of my kids’ bags, fed them mini corn dogs to distract them from my pile of empty Tootsie Roll wrappers, and re-ordered the birthday gifts for my nieces that I accidentally shipped to myself (2,500 miles from the intended destination of Detroit, MI). Fisher-Price Little People airplane, anyone?