This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.
Mini is an advanced and devoted reader, and we’ve encouraged her to read whatever she likes for her entire childhood. (Above picture from when she was three!) This has meant I have tolerated Dog Man for a long, painful time despite the fact that I think those books are awful. The themes are negative, the characters are unkind to one another, and there are cutesy and intentional misspellings that I think confuse a young reader. However, my philosophy has been that permitting her to opt into reading however she likes will engender a lifelong love of books. And the onus is on me to navigate the conversations about Dog Man in a way that helps her develop discernment. (For example, we can talk about how mean the characters are to each other, and why we don’t like that.) My perspective is shaped by my observations that 1) I like to read books that aren’t necessarily “good” or “positive” — that are purely for pleasure — and destigmatizing my own preferences has been an important unlock; 2) a girlfriend of mine told me that her mother banned lots of popular titles in her home when she was a girl, including Baby Sitter’s Club (my bread and butter) and Sweet Valley High (I was less into this series but did dabble), and she feels this foreclosed upon her interest in reading — to this day, she does not read, as she still associates the act of reading with the classics she felt forced to drag herself through when younger; 3) kids will find ways around censorship. My parents specifically told me not to watch any PG-13 movies when I was 11-12 and starting to enjoy sleepovers with my girlfriends. They knew I was highly sensitive to imagery (I had nightmares for years that involved Maleficent peeking into my childhood bedroom), and they knew that some of my friends were permitted to watch PG-13. Of course, I went to my girlfriend’s home and immediately agreed to watch Arachnaphobia (PG-13) — and subsequently could not sleep for weeks. I am a rule following gal — always have been — but when it comes to content prohibitions, even I found ways around (at my own peril!). Mr. Magpie has set up various permissions and parental controls on our children’s HomePods/iPads, but he told me as he was doing so that “these only go so far — kids are clever and find ways around.” Again, it feels like the onus is on us as parents to stay in tune with what they are reading, watching, listening to; to try to have the conversations around what is/what is not appropriate; and to work with them to navigate and develop fluency around these things.
On a more positive note, though, Rachel Ringenberg shared two quotes on imagination and childhood reading from Astrid Lindgren (author of Pippi Longstocking) this week and I found myself nodding emphatically:
“What the world of tomorrow will be like is greatly dependent on the power of imagination in those who are learning to read today.”
“A childhood without books — that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.”
So there is this, too. Freely encountering all kinds of stories stirs imagination, encourages the cross-pollination of images and themes, and helps kids learn what they like.
All a preamble to say, however: a few weeks ago, mini started bringing home books from the library that seemed too mature. One was called Guts and, when I laid in bed reading sections of it along with her last week, I found myself uncomfortable with the themes discussed — puberty, therapy, mental wellness, parent issues. I cannot shield her from learning about any of these things over time, but she is only in first grade, and encountering a cluster of them in one fell swoop was a lot. I should asterisk that I do feel comfortable with (even proactive about) her learning about menstruation because it’s a fact of life and nothing to be ashamed of — I wish it had been destigmatized more when I was a child. I have talked plainly with her about this already. But the other things? I felt stuck, as she’d already read the book on her own on the way home from school, and I wasn’t sure how to message my perspective that these things were not appropriate for her. Sometimes I feel that when I make a big deal of something, it only underscores and exacerbates whatever the issue is. By telling her she couldn’t read the book anymore, would that only draw her interest further? Would it scare her? Beyond that, had the impact had already been made. She’d already read the book. What would it mean to tell her she couldn’t read it again?
I wondered about the safeguards in place at her library, and how and why she’d selected this particular book. I feel we are at a crossroads because the books at her grade and age level are no longer challenging for her, and the books that she wants to read (for fourth/fifth/sixth graders) are too thematically mature. I am sure we are not the first parents that have encountered this issue. What advice do you have for me?
I already reached out to her teachers and librarian to flag this issue and ask for their support and recommendations, and have chatted with our nanny about steering her away from books in the public library (they spend an hour or two there after school at least one or two days a week) that seem too advanced. Perhaps we need to institute a checkpoint when she brings a book home, too? I’m so torn on this, though — help!
Also on my mind and heart this week:
+We’re officially on the countdown to Christmas! Mr. Magpie’s aunt made this adorable Advent calendar for him when he was only two years old. We tie a little gift (or scroll with instructions on where to find the gift/surprise) to each day leading up to Christmas, and the kids sprint down each morning to open. These are usually simple little gifts like a new set of markers, a chocolate Santa, some Christmas stickers, but there are a couple of “bigger ticket” surprises. I also have their new holiday pajamas designated for certain days — a great way to make a big deal over something I was already going to get them! (They will have opened their Nutcracker jammies — these for mini, these for micro — yesterday in anticipation of seeing the Nutcracker today! They also have these Santa jammies coming their way later this week.)
+This Merit lipstick is SO GOOD. I’ve been wearing it a ton in the millennial pink. The formula is deeply hydrating (wears like a balm, has a great satin-y finish) and the color is perfection. I’m actually sharing a step-by-step everyday makeup application from Merit in a mini post tomorrow. I truly love this brand. Great products that are good for your skin. The colors are amazing, too. UPDATE: I just learned that Sephora is offering 20% off sitewide (!) for all Beauty Insider members (regardless of status!) with code YAYGIFTING through today only, and they carry Merit! All of my favorite Sephora products here, including my long-standing favorite face mask ever. I love to use this before heading out for a big event — it truly chisels your features / thoroughly depuffs! Would also make a great gift.
+My girlie marching to Sunday Mass. For Christmas, she’s asking for a Patrick Mahomes jersey and a Taylor Swift sweatshirt — these so encapsulate her! I don’t know exactly where she gets her tastes from but she definitely knows what she likes and does not. I shared the snap of her wearing this patterned puffer coat on Instagram earlier this week, and had some questions about it. It’s by Maisonette’s house brand, Maison Me, but last year — there’s still a size or two left here (heavily discounted!). Boden also has really cute patterns for their puffer coats: check out this and this! But if you’ve not tried Maison Me, I encourage you to! I have been impressed with the quality and the designs are great. Actually, the striped dress you can barely see here is also Maison Me. I have these striped, ribbed dresses and the matching leggings from them in my cart right now. P.S. The boots were an Amazon find and she loves them! I never know how things will go for her — even when I engage her for opinions before buying something, she can turn cold on items when they arrive! However, she loves these. I think it might help that I’ve been wearing my own cowboy-inspired boots a lot this season. One of you Magpies pointed out earlier this year when I shared all the things she picked for herself from Gap/J. Crew that it seems like she’s often drawn to items I would myself wear, and that completely changed my perspective on our occasional skirmishes over what to wear. Now I tend to buy her things that look like mini versions of what I own.
+Meanwhile, my boy still (generally, with the exception of this $80 sweater he refused to wear on Thanksgiving — wahhh!) will wear what I dress him in without a problem. My latest fixation is his pair of tiny Sperrys. I can’t. He looks like a mini Landon! (Mr. Magpie and his father both live in boat shoes, and have for as long as I’ve known them. They even have “yardwork” pairs that they slip into outside the back doors of their respective houses! He just bought himself few new pairs while on sale — this is a classic style, and only $80.) P.S. My son is also wearing J. Crew dock pants (his favorite — elastic waist is our best friend), a J. Crew sweater, and his Helly Hansen reversible puffer (exact style is from last year, but this is very similar). I’ve been impressed with the Helly jacket! We managed to get two seasons/winters out of it. It’s warm enough for snow but not too bulky/parka-esque for everyday.
+I know I’m a broken record here, but can I again say, for the record, how much I love this Hanni splash salve? I apply it at the end of my shower and I have the softest, silkiest, most moisturized skin afterward. You don’t even need to apply lotion afterward (though I often do follow up with their water balm spray). I cannot speak more enthusiastically about this product! I did notice they are running a BOGO 50% off promotion, so buy one for yourself, and tuck one into your sister’s stocking! I’m also still using and loving the Roz Foundation shampoo and conditioner. The best! I love that they offer refill pouches so you can continue to reuse the same aluminum pump bottle.
+A few other notes…
+Sezane is launching a new party collection today and I have my eye on a few items — the golden Seyma dress and the black velvet Swan top? Wouldn’t the latter be so chic with a pair of tartan or silk or feathered trousers?
+I have a loved one who takes long walks in the mornings and I want to upgrade her daily ritual with a cozy new fleece/sweatshirt for Christmas. I am torn between a Dudley Stephens fleece (I’ve been wearing mine a lot this week — such a good layer because it’s thin but keeps you really warm) and an Alice Walk sweatshirt (the most luxurious sweatshirt you’ll buy). Thoughts?
+I just ordered a bunch of the pieces from Negative’s “whipped” line. I love the look — soft but sexy!
P.S. Some of our favorite books for younger kids here.
P.P.P.S. I loved your comments on my post about where to find meaningful stuff.
If you want more Magpie, you can subscribe to my Magpie Email Digest for a weekly roundup of top essays, musings, conversations, and finds.