Why Can’t I Just Relax, Already?

Writing has changed the way I read books. In my case, the same can be said for parenting. The older my kids get, I’m less able to lose myself in a story.

Let me explain.photo

I’ve been reading a lot of young adult books recently. As a self-published author, I’m always checking out the bestselling SP titles. Frequently they are YA, or more specifically the recently crowned and much needed genre classification called New Adult. There’s a lot of S-E-X in these books that’s not appropriate for the younger YA crowd.

The good news is that I could easily converse with a population of girls more than half my age. The bad news is that I worry for our girls.

Let me preface this by saying I have a thirteen-year-old daughter, so the lens I view these books through isn’t exactly clear. I can’t help but read these books without worrying. Why worry, other than the S-E-X? I’ll summarize the plot of the majority I’ve read: innocent, virginal girl moves to a new high school or goes off to college and is suddenly discovered and appreciated by the campus bad boy. He’s slept with a million girls and no one can tame him but our innocent, virginal heroine. All the boys fall at her feet and all the girls want to be her best friend. I don’t mind a little fiction in my fiction, but the plethora of these stories has me scratching my head.

Why does this bother me so, especially since I’ve never considered myself a raging feminist?

All of our daughters are beautiful. Some more on the outside, some more on the inside, but they are all beautiful. All of them. Many times, these girls—our daughters—go unappreciated just like the girls in the books I’ve been reading. Is there always a boy who’s going to magically make them feel better about themselves? No, and why would we want these heroines—our daughters—to only find themselves worthy because some boy wakes up and realizes she’s wonderful?

I’ve been to college, and I was that innocent virgin. Did I find myself during those pivotal years? Yes! Did I find myself because the campus bad boy saw what every other boy I’d ever met couldn’t see? Heck no! I found myself. I discovered myself in the pages of the books I read, in the responsibilities I carried, and in the process of letting go of my childhood. As I came into my own, I met the man who was to become my husband. Was it love at first site? Nope, not even close for either one of us. Did I save him or did he save me? No. If we’d never met, I feel confident we both would have gone on to live happy, productive lives. I must add here, for the sake of my marriage, that our lives are infinitely better for having met and fallen in love.

It is my greatest wish for my daughter to find love with a man who appreciates every wonderful thing about her (even the not-so-wonderful things). Will this man have a tortured past, be (God help me) covered in tattoos, or come from a broken home? Maybe, but if he loves and appreciates my daughter, I won’t care. What I do care about is that before she pledges her love and her body to a man, she will truly appreciate the value of her love and her body and know what a gift she’s giving. And that man better appreciate and cherish the gift he’s receiving, because if he doesn’t, her father and I will be happy to tell him. For those of you lucky enough to know my daughter, you know I won’t have to—she’ll tell him all on her own. J

I don’t begrudge the authors of these books or the readers who devour them. Who doesn’t love a well-written good-girl saves bad-boy story? I know I can’t assume that all girls who read these books will believe there’s a bad boy out there who’s going to be the answer to her prayers. I read Cinderella and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty when I was a young girl and I never expected a handsome young prince to ride up on his white horse and make me his princess. But somehow I can’t help but feel sad.

Perhaps this is what happens when someone who’s not a new adult reads books written for new adults. I’m too old to appreciate the genre. Phooey. I should have known it would boil down to this…

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About Christy Hayes

A wife, a mother and a writer of romantic women's fiction. I love dogs, exercise and cable news.

Posted on March 11, 2013, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. I agree with you 100% (i’ve got a 12 year old) I am not a writter so I can quite ’empathize’ or fully appreciate a book, I will only see it from a worrisome mom’s point of view…although I did read a very ‘racy’ book way back in jr. High Judy Blume’s Are You There God It’s Me Margaret….ooooh! And my mother never knew what I was reading… I think the title didn’t make her suspect of anything inappropriate… Today I read as much about the book without reading the book itself when I buy her one and just hope for the best…it is hard to relax when you are a mom 🙂 aleays a pleasure to read your posts, Alexandra

    • Thanks for stopping by, Alexandra. I’m so glad I’m not the only one struggling with raising my daughter. Misery loves company! I know our girls will make it through these years just fine, but some days I’m not sure I will. I know there are good boys out there (I’m trying to raise one of those, too) and she will get her HEA, but until then I worry!

      • Oh, the opportunity to live and grow having a brother is life altering… and I am also trying to raise a good, empathic, respectful boy that thankfully will grow up being totally conscious of girls, how to treat them and act around them… and it goes both ways, my daughter is less intimidated and feels less awkward around boys having one at home and knowing his traits and vulnerabilities… something i feel (I could be wrong) doesn’t happen with same sex siblings… does this make any sense? 🙂

  2. I think most of fiction, especially the romance genre, with it’s HEA is exactly that– FICTION. Jack Reacher always solves the mystery and the bad guys get caught. We want a break from the reality of the daily news.

    I know people who didn’t do Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny because they felt it was lying to the kids. These Cinderalla novels are a version of the same thing. Wholesale lies perpetrated by society. To what end, I don’t know.

    • I know, I know. I’m just in a mood. I think I overdosed on one too many virgins. She’ll be fine and life will go on. I’m just getting old…

  3. I can definitely empathize with you, Christy, because my daughter is 14 and she just told me today that one her brother’s (he’s 18) friends likes her. AACK! We had a talk about that whole thing because this boy, who I have known through my son for four years now, is a nice guy. Then again he’s had another girlfriend for a year or so and my thoughts are, “what have the two of them been doing sex-wise for the last year?” I would hazard a guess that it went beyond making out, so my husband and I are mulling this one over. My daughter asks my(our) permission whether she can “like” a guy back – which I think is SO cute and sweet. Now it’s up to me to give her my (our) decision. OMG.
    Help!
    Patti

    • That’s a tough one, Patti! I’m not sure how I’d handle that one. It is really cute that she asks your permission on who to like and I think I’d give her a big fat NO on him. My son is 15 and I’m sure I’ll have some of that eventually.

  4. It is so nice to know that I’m not the only one who can’t relax! I have 13 yrs. (almost 14) boy/girl twins. The older they get the more concerned and aware of everything that is out there. I have so many concerns with her about makeup, fashion, books and him with computers and girls. I’m not sure why, but I have more worries with her than with him. Is that because I was a girl too once? I agree with Christy, as a writer too I can appreciate good writing and creativity, but am finding YA books that I don’t think is appropriate for a 13 yrs. My daughter has come to me and said that she was frustrated with what’s out there. My husband and I try very hard to have communication, but I wonder is it enough? I know that I’m new to the teen years and just like potty training this will be over before I know it. This was a great post, thanks!

    • Thanks for your insight, Paige. I really like your potty training analogy. You are right, this will be a blip and we’ll think back to the good old days when all we had to worry about was what they were reading. You ladies help keep things in perspective!

  5. Those teen years are so tough, Christy. We want to pass our hard earned knowledge on to our kids, and prevent the heartache and pain that often accompanies young-adulthood. The stories you’ve described remind me of the romances I used to read in the early 80’s, when the girl was always rescusing the bad boy. In real life, this is often not true and yet, it continues to be a fantasy through the generations. But it sounds like your daughter has a good head on her shoulders and despite the trials and tribulations ahead, she will grow up to be a happy adult. 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Sheila. I know these stories have been around for a long time, but I didn’t have a young girl then 🙂 Now that I do, they are not so entertaining! I don’t worry as much about my daughter because she’s a handful. Thankfully, she was born with an innate sense of self and a mouth to boot. I’ve always said it’s going to take one brave guy to take her on!

  6. My daughter orders her books off my Amazon account, so I see exactly what she is reading. Did you know there are romance novels written around the equestrian world?? Talk about niche. I do think these are an escape. What girl doesn’t want the handsome boy to notice her? On the flip side, what thirteen-year-old boy doesn’t fantasize about starting for the Falcons or the Braves? Heck, I’m dreaming about having the staff of Downton Abbey move into my house and wait on me! The key is making sure your children can distinguish between real life and fantasy. The fact that you’re concerned about it, tells me your kids will be just fine. 🙂

    • I tend to agree, Tracy, although I do think they live in fantasy land. I’m still looking for the money tree they think is buried in the backyard!

  7. Okay, Christy. I was off doing stuff all day yesterday and didn’t get to this until the morning after. Kind of like a hang-over. Speaking of hangovers … Boomers (that’s me) who raised a gaggle of X-ers (that’s you) … are having the best of times with this issue. Not because I don’t remember how that issue would impact on my daughter.

    My daughter was a Friday The Thirteenth nut. I worried that there was too much violence and suggested that she should not watch terrible movies like that one. I selected books, VHS tapes, I had those warm mother/daughter talks. When she was in her late twenties she told me … “You worried too darn much, Mom. It’s all make believe. Don’t you think I knew the difference between make believe and real life?”

    I guess they do know, Christy. LIke millions of women who read romance novels by the truckload know they are not going to meet the rich, handsome hero whilst strolling in the supermarket. Hang in there, it gets easier with the grandchildren (16yr old boy/girl twins) … and their father … my son … is that bad boy who wanted to introduce ever virgin in college to his charms. Life is too darn funny 🙂

  8. I love this: “All of our daughters are beautiful. Some more on the outside, some more on the inside, but they are all beautiful. All of them.”

    The most important point you make is when talking about helping our daughters identify their worth. That presses most on my mind, because I went too long unaware of my own (especially when it came to my relationship with their father).

    Books and their messages can certainly play into sense of self-worth, but what most shapes their understanding are the day-to-day, real-world lessons we teach them, the messages we as moms deliver.

    Great post, Christy!

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