The other day, I was happily reading a romance novel, and my littlest dareling came up and sat beside me.  He tried to grab for the book, and I said, “No, sweetie.  Mommy’s book.”

“Mommy’s book,” says the dareling.

“Yes,” I say. “Mommy’s book.”

The dareling disappears.  Pitter-patter of little feet down the hallway.  Back comes the dareling with his own romance novel, plucked from my bookshelf.  Steamy stepback and all.  He settles up next to me, opens the book (upside-down, of course), leafs through the pages, and says proudly, “MY book.”

This made me start thinking, what will I do when my kids get old enough to read the titles of all these books littering the house, let alone the contents?  Am I going to keep my shelves of romance novels at their eye level, and continually field questions such as, “Mommy, what’s a kor-tee-san?” or, “What happened to these people’s clothes?”   What will I do when they ask to read my books?

Don’t get me wrong.  I want my kids to grow up loving reading and loving books, and I don’t have any problem saying, “You’re not old enough for these yet.”  But I wonder…what place should my own books have in my house, once dareling literacy sets in?  Displayed proudly on shelves, or hidden in unmarked boxes…?

What do you think?

14 comments to “Little ‘taters have big eyes”

  1. Santa
    · October 7th, 2008 at 7:39 pm · Link

    I come across this daily. I have books on my night stand. I flip over some of the more revealing covers. We also have separate bookshelves. Grown up books are on one bookshelf and the kids have two of their own. (two to one? I may have to revisit that) We have separate bookcases, not so much for the content of some of the romances, but because I don’t want to have to search the house over for a book to read, lol.

    I’ve had the ‘you’re not old enough’ conversation already with my eldest. So far, so good. My youngest has enough of her own books to have any interest in any of mine. And my son couldn’t care less about my books. He’s more interested in science and mysteries.

  2. Janga
    · October 7th, 2008 at 8:42 pm · Link

    I had a long discussion with the nine-year-old grand about the cover of a romance I was reading this summer (Victoria Dahl’s A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure). Since she’s decided that she’s going to marry one of the Jonas brothers, she has become very interested in love. (I think nine is the new thirteen.) I actually had an easier time explaining the cover than I did EJ’s cover quote, which she read. LOL! Then I gave her Anne of Green Gables and we talked about why what’s a better “love story” for her. I started reading my mother’s romance novels when I was ten, but that was in the pre-Woodiwiss days when sweet romances were the norm.

    The boys never notice, and they are conditioned by the video games they can play to make distinctions between for-kids and not-for-kids.

  3. kelly krysten
    · October 8th, 2008 at 2:40 am · Link

    Hmmm… I’m not a Mom, but I have a lot of experience with kids(I have two nieces-one more on the way- one nephew, and baby cousins-well, they’re not babies anymore, but I still think of them as babies. Also, I’ve been a baby sitter for aeons).
    My nieces come into my room and look at the covers of my books and say, “Are those adult books? Or can I read them?”
    I usually can pluck out a YA book for them, but even those are getting a tad racy. When I don’t have a book for them they are very accepting of the fact that the books are above their level. In fact, my eldest niece hates romance. She doesn’t mind reading some in a YA but she also doesn’t want to read a book with adult themes and nothing but romance-she’s at that age, I think, where it’s all disgusting.
    Also, though, the kids aren’t allowed in my room when I’m not in there so that pretty much is a constant safeguard.

    OTOH, one of cousins- who’s eleven!- tells me about the romance novels she reads all the time. In fact, she’s writng her own romance novel. I try to tell her she’s really not ready for those books but she , of course, doesn’t listen. I really hate that she reads them. But there’s nothing I can do about it.

    I think that putting your books in boxes might make them want to read them more-I know I would have dug out those books just because I wasn’t supposed to.

    So basically, I have nothing good to offer. I’m sure you’ll make the right decision. Santa’s idea about two separate bookshelves was great. And Janga’s open honesty regarding why the books aren’t right for her grandbaby is a great idea, too.

    Well, I’ve just talked in circles. I hope what I wrote makes some type of sense…

  4. terrio
    · October 9th, 2008 at 6:35 am · Link

    I have always had shelves covered in Romance novels in my house and it has never been an issue or a problem. I don’t hide the covers, or shield her from the titles. And she’s never asked to read them or asked much of anything really. Maybe because they’ve always been there, they have never been a mystery.

    Kiddo is 9 and I’ll answer any question she asks. Though they are getting a bit more delicate now. At some point I’ll let her start reading some, but not for a good four or five years I’d think. And then I’m not sure she’ll be interested. She likes more adventure and magic in her books.

    I’d say this could only become an issue if you made it one. In my experience, the kids will just know that mommy has always had books around and maybe someday they’ll be ready to read the ones she writes.

  5. Lady Leigh
    · October 9th, 2008 at 7:28 am · Link

    I started reading romance novels early- definitly by the time I was thirteen I put away Anne of Green Gables and picked up my mom’s Judith McNaught. I don’t remember my first reactions to the sex scenes. I do remember staying up all night to read and being super tired in school the next day. ‘Almost Heaven’ changed my adolescent world.

    Not that I am advocating giving racy books to young girls!

    As with everything, I think talking about it and being open and honest it a good policy. Just last night I lent ‘The Spymaster’s Lady’ to my MIL and had to explain over and over about the naked man on the cover.

    Hopefully some day I’ll be concerned about letting my kids read books that I have written 😉

  6. Lady Leigh
    · October 9th, 2008 at 7:31 am · Link

    I mean definitely, not definitly. Ugh. I didn’t seem to learn spelling from all those books I read as a kid!

  7. irisheyes
    · October 9th, 2008 at 7:40 am · Link

    I’ve struggled with this also. My husband built me a bookcase into the wall of my sitting room (off my bedroom). It was a huge project and the kids were very interested in watching Daddy work and especially that he was doing this very special project for Mommy. Well, then the day came when I had to fill the bookcase. I was a little concerned. I do have shelves with other books (on gardening, health, psychology, relationships, etc.) and the DH has his own shelf with his Lord of the Rings books, among others… but 90% of those shelves have romances on them. Right out in the open. For all to see. Especially curious little eyes. I thought twice about it but then just went ahead and filled those shelves.

    My daughter is 13 and my son is 11. Neither one has shown any interest whatsoever in any of my books. Once a few years ago my son asked if he could read a Nora Roberts book for his reading log at school. I think he saw it as a way to connect with me – he wanted to like what I liked (he did the same thing with food and music – how I wish he still felt that need LOL). I told him that those were adult books and he wouldn’t be able to read them until he was 18. I know that sounds extreme, but it’s kind of a pattern/inside joke I’ve developed with them since they were toddlers. Every time they ask to do something inappropriate (pierce a body part, drink alcohol, read my romances, drive the car, shave their head), I’ve always said – “when you’re 18 you can do anything you’d like!”

    I’m rambling too, but I suppose my advice would be don’t hide them because then that piques their curiosity. If they ask about them, be as honest as you can considering their age and then tell them not until their 18! It’s worked for me.

    I know this sound really bad, but to tell the truth I’m more concerned about my son and raging teenage hormones in a couple of years than I am about my daughter. I feel I can deal better with my daughter feeding her teenage fantasies about love more than I can deal with my son using them as a replacement for a Playboy (if you get my drift).

  8. Gillian
    · October 10th, 2008 at 4:09 am · Link

    My girls are fifteen, thirteen, and nine. My “office” is our living room that my dh made into a library, with bookshelves lining two of the four walls and my beautiful antique oak desk in one corner. And those shelves are half filled with romance novels, the other half are the hundreds of children’s books we have.

    The fifteen and thirteen year old have free rein. My mother never edited my reading and I have never been forced to edit theirs. I do keep myself in the thick of what they’re reading, but they have their own definite taste, and Regency historical isn’t it. 🙂

    That said, the fifteen year old reads a wide range of absolutely everything, including the Hamilton ‘Anita Blake’ novels, which make anything of mine they’ll ever read look tame. (So far, anyway….;)) She makes straight A’s, causes no trouble, isn’t allowed to date yet and doesn’t fuss about it, and the two teens are actively involved in their Teen Council at our Public Library. They just got done with a bunch of “Banned Books” activities around town and at their middle and high schools. With all that, I simply can’t see telling them ‘no’.

    The nine year old loves Junie B Jones, all the American Girl history books, and is deep in Hugo Cabot right now. As I said, I’m lucky because I don’t have to say “not yet”–she just doesn’t care right now.

  9. Tessa
    · October 10th, 2008 at 7:29 am · Link

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, everyone! It’s heartening to hear how much reading is encouraged in your houses, and that conversations go on about books…including the what’s appropriate/what’s not discussion.

    As for my own kids – once they reach their preteens, I have no problem with adolescent curiosity leading them to romance novels. I know I went through that phase, too, and there are certainly worse places to learn about sex than through novels that celebrate committed loving relationships and mutual enjoyment! In fact, the thread that links my trilogy is a “naughty” book that each heroine passes to the next.

    But right now, I’m mostly worried about that stage where they’ll be able to read the words but unable to understand….because that stage will be upon us soon! I imagine it will lead to some amusing “teachable moments”. Thanks for sharing some of yours! I love that about the romance community – so many women going through the same life issues, there for one another.

  10. Maggie Robinson
    · October 11th, 2008 at 4:27 am · Link

    Tessa, my kids are ADULTS and they’re skeeved out by the pile of romances on the floor of my bedroom! I keep trying to foist them off on the girls, but they’re not at all interested in historicals. I have better luck with some contemps. Alas, not a romance bone in their beautiful bodies. I don’t think they’ll even read ME if I’m published, LOL.

    They had their own bookshelves on our big one when they were young. The neatest thing now is my granddaughter Sadie, who has her own books here when she comes to visit. We have to read Baby Touch and Feel Farm about 100 times straight.

  11. Elyssa
    · October 11th, 2008 at 10:25 am · Link

    I was trying to remember things when I was a little kid because my mom read romances. I don’t think I ever asked any questions because I was too wrapped up in reading my own books. I do know that when my mom told when I was younger that I wasn’t ready to read Shakespeare that it made me read him because he was “bad.” She also didn’t let me read Gone With the Wind until I was 15/16, and that spurned a whole love affair in my teenager years with the book, the movie, and Clark Gable. So, for me the forbidden was a temptation because it made me want to discover what made it not suitable material. I remember when I read The Clan of the Cave Bear (which my mom said I should read) and I was surprised that she let me read that in 9th grade. Of course, I soaked up the series like water to a sponge.

    As to bookshelves, my mom doesn’t keep her paperbacks. So I learned to read fast before she trashed them. The ones she does keep are hardbacks and mostly Judith McNaught and Johanna Lindsey. When I was in high school, I knew where my mom kept the good stuff—all upstairs in her room on her nightstand. I had a whole system where I would sneak those books from her and return them without her ever knowing they’d been read. So, long story short… my mom tried to shield me from mature subject matter (but yet they would take me to horror movies) and it just made me more curious about the whole thing. They never “talked” to me about what these things meant, etc…. I think my whole sex education was learned in the pages of a romance novel.

    I think it’s good to be open to your kids when you think it’s appropriate. But my advice is not to say to your kids you’re not ready to read a book because it just made me want to read those books more or find ways of reading them that went unnoticed.

  12. Alice Audrey
    · October 13th, 2008 at 9:05 am · Link

    I was worried about the same thing when my kids were starting to learn to read. It turned out to be a non-issue. I made sure they had plenty of books appropriate to their ages and interests, and reading is enough hard work that when they looked at the print in my books they backed off. The did, however, tease me about the covers.

  13. Darcy Burke
    · October 13th, 2008 at 11:17 am · Link

    Tessa, my daughter is in second grade and really enjoys reading. She has a pretty pink Catherine Coulter book (with a flower on the front – no clinch!) on her nightstand that’s “her” book. I don’t worry about it right now, because she hasn’t shown the slightest interest in reading any of them. I know that day will come and I’ll probably say they are more for grow up reading and maybe she can try one when she’s say, 13?

    I had to laugh at your son reading next to you. Mine does the same thing. No pictures, but he thumbs through every page (Harry Potter too). I know he’s going to be a big reader too, so I’ll let him “read” along with me whenever he likes.

    Thank goodness our books aren’t illustrated. 🙂

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    · July 11th, 2010 at 3:36 am · Link

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