What's KFC? Part Deux.

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.



My daughter is a 3rd grader, age 8, from our experience in the current school. Her teacher has no idea what is checked out of the school library, and the school librarian, doesn't review this data either. My daughter brought home a pretty graphic book about 9/11 during 2009's anniv. Her Dad and I have never discussed in full detail the happennings of 9/11. I called her classroom teacher who was not aware that she checked this out, and her librarian didn't know, and didn't think much of my concerns that the children are not monitored a little closer regarding book check-outs. My daughter worries a lot about things- we didn't need to scare her. The school had no curriculm to discuss on the anniv. schools are given a choice regarding 9/11 discusssions. As parents I believe we should know when things are appropriate to discuss and when things cannot be understood because of age and/or ability to comprehend. We shared information that was sensitive to her understanding from the book. Her Dad and I sat with her, asked her what she wanted to know, and went from there. We did not read from the book or display the graphic images. I personally returned it to the school. Overall, Her Dad and I were able to make this work. What i didn't want was her to read the book and go through the pictures on her own without someone she could seek information and understanding.


I've never read Judy Blume, I have to say, but by third grade I was reading at college level with pretty good comprehension, and I wasn't the least bit interested in what the school library had to offer (I'd pretty much burned through all of the ghost stories and such, and didn't like "girl's books). I was a "young" third grader too (birthday in July). My mother would take me to the public library and turn me loose in the adult section. I would choose the maximum 10 books, put them on the counter, and she'd lay her library card on top (gotten exclusively for the purpose of getting me books, my mother did not read), and I'd get my reading material for one week. She never asked what I was reading (she was totally unconcerned...because she did not care), and I had some magnificent and wild adventures.

Today I am married and have a brilliant twelve year old son, plus an 18 year old with special needs. The latter has decided that he "hates" reading right now. My husband and I both have very high tested IQ's (for whatever that's worth), and are "odd". He is the kind of odd that is more outwardly conservative than I. We don't have much use for the "American Dream", he is an Atheist and I am...mmm, agnostic (in the true sense), we do not socialize in the block party, back-yard-barbecue, church function, cocktail party kind of way, and we have about 3500 books and, perhaps, 300 CD's. We only just got satellite (sirius radio) in January of 2009. We enjoy fantasy role-playing (although finding new people, or any people, has been very difficult since we are extremely wary after some slightly horrific, but ultimitely not dangerous experiences of the weird kind). We also enjoy a few websites that offer odd, but often hysterical threads on a variety of off-the-wall subjects.

So into this mix we brought M., and he has had a bit of a rough time. He decided this year that he is an Atheist, and, after some run ins with his fellow students, we had to sit down with him and explain that, despite Constitutional guarantees, middles schoolers aren't socially or mentally developed enough to have religious (or political, we live in Conservative heaven) with and remain rational. M. also has a certain scorn for "celebrity worship", because we, his parents, don't think that people who star in movies or sing songs or model clothes are necessarily whom one should look up to for life-advice. He still doesn't grasp why race or ethnicity or sexual orientation should be an issue in choosing one's friends, because he wasn't brought up with those prejudices, and he doesn't use race as a first descriptor when explaining a new acquaintance or friend. He tends to defend his friends fiercely, and to be very unhappy when he perceives cruelty or injustice.

We answer all of his questions honestly, something my parents were incapable of doing. He is way above his class level of reading, and we are encouraging him to expand his horizons. He has perused Playboy (we had a free subscription for years, we even tried canceling it by mail and phone because it was a waste of paper...and runs tobacco and liquor adds...and kept getting it) and does not seem to "objectify" women. In fact, he has pointed out the girls he thinks are "hot" (common parlance amongst the sixth grade crowd), and they are all quite strikingly NOT the "norm". He wants to be a paleontologist, and that has been his desire since he was two years old (when he could describe, and pronounce the names of, over 100 dinosaurs).

I say it is possible to be true to your beliefs...but it will be an uphill battle for your daughter if she strays too far from the "garden variety". My son is considered a bit "odd", but so are his dad and I, and we're doing all right. Power of convictions is good, and Hannah Montana really is gross (my son grew up with "Trout Fishing in America", classic rock and the '80's station because "kiddy music" made me want to scream. O, and mom sings, too). And we don't do KY fried either...we've gotten food poisoning from them three times. Ew.


Good thing she didn't pick up Forever!


My mom was like you in some ways - answer questions with honesty and candor, keep the reins on just the same. Instill values and boundaries... and inform me that it was MY responsibility to uphold them when I wasn't around her to do it for me.
Guess what? I had THE healthiest attitude towards sex & sexuality of ANY one I knew... actually, I still do!!! I knew sex was not for "fun" or "rebellion", that it wasn't going to even remotely make someone love or even LIKE me. MOST importantly... I had no NEED to experiment to satisfy my curiosities, all I had to do was ASK.
Keep that in mind, and keep that "door" OPEN. <3


LOL. I think I was in 2nd grade when I first read "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret." And I checked it out for the same reason -- I'd read "SuperFudge" and all the other Judy Blume books. I just remember being so confused about why these girls were getting so excited about punctuation!!! Went right over my head. It wasn't until sex ed in 4th grade that the light bulb went on.


I love your candor. My second grader has had such similar experiences. I agree with "truth" and then teaching the rules around how to use it.

Over the weekend, I wrote a story with the soul purpose of telling our children that my husband and I had been previously married to other people but never had kids. We feared what they'd think/feel, but were more fearful of waiting until they were older (and then having it fuel huge distrust - "seriously, what ELSE are they not telling me??")

It went beautifully.

My parents and others in the "older generation" would have said, "what on EARTH did you tell them for?? There was no evidence! Let it slide." I'd rather base our relationship on truth.

Thanks for the fab read!



I'm with you -- but have to wonder why the school would allow a second-grader to check out "Are You There ..." There's a vast difference between what a 2nd grader can read and what a 2nd grader should read. Just as there's a vast difference between what a 2nd grader should read and what a 5th grader should read. I'm just sayin' ...