by Risa Green
I know that my daughter doesn’t read my column here (yet), but somehow, she seems to know that I’ve been concerned lately that perhaps I shelter her too much . Seriously, it’s as if she went online and read the whole thing and then came up with a sneaky master plan to take advantage of my insecure, vulnerable state. And maybe she did. I mean, who the hell knows what she’s doing on the computer while I’m busy making dinner. She says she’s playing Webkinz, but for all I know she’s watching porn. (You see – look what happens when you start de-sheltering). Anyway, twice this week she tested me, unknowingly (or not).
The first was on Friday. She came home from school and as usual, I looked through her folder to see if there were any permission slips or notes for me to deal with. There weren’t any, but there was a book in her folder that she’d taken out of the library that afternoon. It was Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret . Now, I am going to assume that if you are reading this column, then you remember Margaret and her prayers for puberty. And if you do remember, then you will understand why I was completely FREAKING OUT. I mean, hello, my daughter is in second grade. She should not be reading books about girls who want to hit puberty. Period. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
I realized right away what had happened, though. My daughter has read other Judy Blume books that skew younger, like Super Fudge  and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing , and she probably just saw Judy Blume’s name and figured that this would be more of the same. I mean, how could she have known that Judy Blume is synonymous with Sex Ed for an entire generation of women? She couldn’t have. It was just an honest mistake, and I would just tell her that it’s not an appropriate for her age and that she wouldn’t be allowed to read it until she was older.
But before I started lighting the bonfire, I thought back to what had happened on the bus last week. And I wondered, am I being too overprotective here? Should I let her read the book? After all, she is almost eight, and some girls nowadays get their periods at nine. We haven’t had the ‘menstration talk’ yet, but I learned lots of things about sexuality from books when I was a kid (mostly from Judy Blume books) and so I thought, okay, maybe this would be a good place to start tipping the scales of my over-protectiveness in the other direction. So, I thumbed through the first couple of pages, trying to keep an open mind, and within four paragraphs I found a reference to Playboy Magazine. At which point I went into her room and told her that I noticed she had checked out Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, which isn’t appropriate and she wouldn’t be allowed to read it until she was older. Period. (Which made me laugh, but she didn’t get the joke).
Overprotection: 1. Tipping the scales: 0.
A few days later, however, she tested me again. I was getting her ready for bed, and she was acting kind of weird, the way she does when she wants to talk to me about something but she thinks I’m going to be mad. So after four rounds of the what’s wrong/nothing game, she finally admitted that she was upset because all of the other kids at school know what all of the bad words are but she doesn’t.
Now, I’ll admit, my first instinct was to blurt out, good, and let’s keep it that way. But then I thought about it: if all of the other kids know the bad words but aren’t saying them, it’s only a matter of time before they start saying them. And if she’s going to learn them anyway, she might as well hear them from me. So I told her okay. You want to know what all of the bad words are, I’ll tell you what all of the bad words are. We determined that she actually already knew the f- word, damn and hell (thank you, best friend with two older sisters), but she wasn’t aware of s---, crap, ass, or asshole. (I drew the line at other body parts, though. I figured that tits, d--k, p---y, and c u next Tuesday could definitely wait until she was older.) Also, she had seen the finger but didn’t know what it meant. So I explained, reminding her every few minutes that even though she now knows these words, she’s not allowed to actually say them. I have to say, I felt like George Carlin doing that old routine about the seven words you can’t say on television.
When we were finished with our talk, I was definitely feeling a little bit of buyer’s remorse; had I just corrupted my own sweet, innocent, child? Had I just done something that would make her see me in a different, not as pure, light? But she just gave me a big hug, thanked me for telling her, and told me that I’m the best mommy ever. And at that moment, I kind of felt like I was.
Tipping the scales: 10. Overprotection: not so much.