Several weeks ago, I went to my hairdresser to get my hair colored. I told her I was sending the big boys to her later that week for a haircut. The conversation went on discussing home repairs, hair issues and finally leading to books we were both reading. Turns out we both were reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
As the conversation went on, we discussed my children’s reading habits. In particular, she mentioned how surprised she was that my oldest son was allowed to read, Game of Thrones by George R. Martin. She has read the book.
“I was so surprised to hear he was reading the Game of Thrones books. Do you know what the books are about? They are very adult themed.” – Hairdresser
“Yes. I know now.” – Me
The truth was, I only recently found out what the books were about. As a matter of fact, I found out the night earlier at my son’s school exhibition.
The earlier night his language and humanities teacher came up to my husband and I to talk.
“Hello. I wanted to apologize to you both.” – Teacher
“Really, for what?” – Me
“For recommending the book, Games of Thrones to your son. I had no idea he would read the entire series so quickly. He finished all five books. I have not even read the fifth book.” – Teacher
“Oh, no problem. He loves the books. My sister has read them too. Sounds like a great book series.” – Me
“Have you read the books yourself?” – Teacher
“No. I do not like that type of books.” – Me
“Well. I want you to know I am so sorry. The books are well written, but I am not sure they were the best choice to recommend for a ninth grader.” – Teacher
My husband and I walked away feeling confused. I mentioned to my husband I would speak to my sister about the books. She had read them and could tell me what the deal was. I emailed my sister telling her about my son reading the books. Turns out, my sister was shocked. Shocked to hear my 15-year-old son had read the entire series and that a teacher would recommend them.
“ I can’t believe his teacher recommended to the class to read the Game of Thrones. There is SO much sex and violence in the books! I’ve never read anything like them. Not what I would think was appropriate for high school students, but what do I know. We have the first year on DVD so he can watch it when he’s here if you don’t mind. The series is really well done, but I can’t watch the violent scenes. Luckily I know the story so I know when to cover my eyes, since I can’t watch all that bloodshed. They do show the sex scenes too, so I don’t know if you would be comfortable with him seeing that even though he’s read it”
My sister is a very loving aunt and a powerhouse reader. Her response to my son reading Games of Thrones was surprising. My oldest son has read so many book series. He and my sister have spoken often about the books they have read. However, the concern and shock in her voice spoke volumes. The books were obviously not well suited.
In a wave of panic, I set to find out what the books were about. I came across a website that provided a review of the book, from a family perspective. I was horrified. The violence and sexual content were completely inappropriate. Suddenly, I felt a great sense of shame for not keeping closer tabs on the books my son was reading. I, the parent who did not allow my son to watch R rated films, had allowed my son the read an entire book series rated NC 17 or worse.
When my son had begun the book series, I asked him what they were about. I heard the television series was violent and wondered what the books were like. His response was they were like other books he had read. There was nothing for me to worry about. My oldest son is a wonderful boy. He makes good decisions and judgements. I trusted him 100%.
After conducting research about the books, I realized we dropped the ball. My husband and I did not once consider books something we should be screening our child for. We have worked so hard to make our children readers, we did not take into account that what they may be reading would be inappropriate.
The entire situation was bad. The teacher did not realize my son would plow through five books in three months. My son is extremely bright and a ferocious reader. The books are extremely complex and the average 9th grader would take 6 to 12 months to read one book. All books were finished by my son in record time. The teacher dropped the ball making a book series recommendation for my son’s age group of children. He also should have known how a boy would want to impress his teacher, by reading his recommendations.
When I later discussed the books with my son, after finding out the content, I asked why he had lied to me about how graphic the books were. He explained the books were interesting, compelling and a great challenge to read. Since he is such a powerful reader, he has a hard time finding books that are age appropriate and challenging. My son dropped the ball for putting his own desire to finish the series, instead of being honest to his parents.
However, in the big scheme of things, it is the parents that screwed up the most. My husband and I did not once check the books prior to him reading them. It did not cross my mind. I trusted the teacher’s recommendation and my son’s feedback completely. Looking back, I now know I should have read some reviews or talked with someone. I knew the books may be trouble, mainly because I had heard about the television show. I chose to believe what I wanted and not the reality. My husband I dropped the ball by not reviewing the books my son was reading and trusting others too much.
I have since spoken to several other parents, the teacher, my son, and read several other reviews of the books. Many feel the books are okay for a young teen to read. The stories are masterfully written. However, the issue is for me is that we all dropped the ball. Each party involved should have known and done better. It was a group screw up.
We all learned from the experience. Several people have expressed to me the teacher is to blame or maybe my son. However, in my opinion we are all responsible.
Next time we will all do things differently. We know the rules of the game now.
For me, I am holding on tighter these days. I do not want to drop the ball again.