Friday, 2 November 2012

Why I "Let" My 16 Yr. Old Daughter Read '50 Shades of Grey'

The week my daughter turned 16, we went to Chapters together one morning to browse. She came and asked me if she could read, "50 Shades of Grey". I said yes. She picked it off the shelf, paid for it with her own money and went home and read it the very same afternoon. Done. Deal.

First of all. Let me just say that it was very polite and respectful of her to ask me. She could have easily read it, without my knowing, in her room at night when I was asleep and I wouldn't have been any wiser. And just like it was respectful of her to ask, it was equally respectful of me as her mother to say yes. And not be judgemental or throw a fit. Or protest. Or say no. Or some other ridiculous show of behavior. And there any 'letting' a 16 year old read anything? If they want to read something...they will find a way. Period. And in case you don't have a teenage girl in your house...I can tell you that hundreds of teenage girls have read this book.

I have always encouraged my kids to read. We are a reading family. Both children have a large bookcase in their rooms drooping with books on every shelf. My daughter read Harry Potter on her own when she was 6 or 7 years old. And numerous other series over the years. So it is not unusual for her to want to read the latest hyped-up series.

So what's the issue? Well, I never thought there was an issue. 50 Shades of Grey is a 300+ page book of fiction. It's a trashy read. A raunchy tale of a screwed up relationship. But I have a blogging friend who blogged that she disagreed with my choice. She thought that if she had read that book as a 16 year old that it would have 'messed her up sexually'. Hmmm.

I mentioned this blog post to my daughter. She was completely offended by this opinion. The first thing she said to me was, "Mom! I know what love looks like! This book is about a screwed up relationship and I have seen just as bad in movies & TV!" {Think CSI, Hunger Games, horror movies that teens love, etc.}

She is absolutely right. She does know what love looks like. The first example she has of a love relationship is the home she has grown up in....a stable, loving family where her father and I have been married for 17 years. We talk, love, argue, yell, hug, cry and laugh...all an example to our children of what a healthy relationship looks like. A 300+ plus page book does not cancel out what you have lived for 16 years. It does not become a model for you in just stays as it is....a work of trashy, scandalous fiction that provided entertainment for an afternoon.

However, this topic of conversation did provide an excellent jumping off point or saguay into a more a candid talk with my daughter about dating and relationships in general. We had a great talk about dating, boys, love and relationships. I came away reassured that my 16 year old definitely knows what kind of emotional, physical, and sexual boundaries are okay in a relationship and what are not...something that even adults have a hard time navigating.  We talked about hitting, types of abuse, mind games and torture. Not a pretty subject, but one that every parent should approach with a child who is beginning to date. This is important information your teen needs to know to protect themselves from harm. They need to know that there are sick people out there who will want to do things to hurt them and I want my daughter to know that she can say "NO" and not have to submit to anything that doesn't feel comfortable to her. EVER! And I also realize that I have a very mature 16 year old daughter and while reading this book might have been the right decision for us and it led to a great talk about might not be the right decision for another 16 year old who is not dating and not mature enough to handle this very difficult subject.

You also have to know that 16 year old girls are some of the most critical, analytical thinkers out there. Why would I deny my daughter a chance to read a book where she could come away with some very interesting critical analysis of what this work of fiction was about?  I loved hearing her insights and perspectives on the 2 main characters and the storyline.

And if  you haven't had coffee and a chat  with a couple of 16 year old girls don't know what you are missing, because it is seriously one of the funnest things ever. I love hearing them chat and joke and laugh. They make me laugh.

And I can assure you that for my daughter, "50 Shades of Grey" was over for her the minute she
finished the last page.

Edited Septembers 2013. My daughter recently re-organized her room and while she kept her Harry Potter books, Anne of Green Gables series and Little House on the Prairie collection, this book went into the 'junk to go to Goodwill ' pile. She knows good literature when she reads it.

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