Saturday, April 11, 2009

What I'm Reading These Days

Not much blogging going on around here. I’m trying not to feel guilty about that. This is supposed to be a fun hobby, not another source of guilt, right? It’s not that I haven’t written anything this week. I just haven’t written anything well, so it’s all still in draft form, hoping to be edited and usable. I have lots of thoughts, but I’m in something of a blog slump when it comes to organizing them.

So, though I’m not blogging much, I have been reading. One serendipitous perk that I had not expected that goes with parenting a 10-year-old who reads at an advanced level is being introduced to books I might never have encountered otherwise. It’s very nice to see J really enjoy reading. Even more fun is being in a race with him to finish a series we are both reading at the same time. Last night I finished Book 4, and J is on Chapter 9 of Book 5. He really wanted me to wait for him to finish first, but I convinced him to leave the book here while he and his dad and brother went to a Cardinals game last night, because I would be really bored with nothing to read and I really wanted to know what was going to happen next. He said okay reluctantly, realizing that I just read too fast for him to finish first. Then he pleaded with me to try to finish the book while he was gone so he could have it back when he got home. He was so sweet, “I don’t know, Mom, this is the longest one yet. It’s over 200 pages!” I finished it in a few hours and it was on his pillow when they got home last night. And now he is pumping me for information, and I’m not telling. That’s another reason I wanted to jump ahead. He just cannot keep himself from revealing interesting plot elements in the books I haven’t yet read. I would beg and plead with him to not tell me anything, and he’d say, “But Mom, just this one thing….” And I’d put my hands over my ears and loudly say, “I want to read it myself! Don’t tell me, don’t tell me!” And then he’d say, “But it’s not that important….” And proceed to drop some very significant plot twist. I'm also one of those people who likes to read the book before seeing the movie. So, I didn’t feel that I was being mean at all to speed on past him. We are a weird family. Go ahead and say it.

A few weeks ago, J came home telling us about a book he had read at school that he really enjoyed. Then he told us it is a whole series and he wanted to read the rest of the books. At first when he was describing them, I thought that the topic seemed awfully heavy for fourth graders, maybe I should look at the book, too. Then a book order form came home from school and, what do you know, all seven of the books were for sale in it at an affordable price (we got them for considerably less than the set I linked in the next paragraph, but it was the only full set I could find to show you in case you're interested in what the books are). We ordered them.

They are the Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Set in a fictional totalitarian society where having more than two children is outlawed with strict penalties (death!) for violators, the series follows several ‘illegals’ or third children who have spent most of their short lives in hiding and the adults who try to help them. This series is loaded with intrigue and plot twists and food for interesting conversations with my son. Think 1984 for kids. I am enjoying interacting with J about this immensely.

Some themes that this series is helping me explore with him are sanctity of life issues – from a perspective he can really get since all these ‘illegal’ kids are his age or a tad older. And many of the characters are behaving very nobly – when given a chance to just look out for themselves or put themselves at risk to save someone else, they are making very heroic choices and overcoming a lifetime of extreme fear to do very hard things. We’re also able to discuss some about why we tend to vote the way we do and why we don’t think government should be in the business of running people’s lives. This is a pretty timely series in that respect – we’ve even talked a little about why we don’t agree with our current president on A LOT of issues and why, and this series is helping him to understand it better. One interesting idea we’ve been talking about is how in the books there was a true crisis, and motives were to save lives, but the way the government chose to address the crisis was immoral, evil, and wrong. J has been asking how a government gets that way. Well, if enough people are in power who have a slippery slope idea of right and wrong and the value of each individual life and of personal freedom, it wouldn’t be hard to see how easily it could happen, especially if some dire crisis came along and people were willing to sacrifice some freedoms in the ‘short term’ with the promise that it was only short term. The difficulty there is once you’ve sacrificed freedoms, the more power over your personal life you put in the hands of government, how do you get them back once the crisis is over? Sound familiar? Problem is, in a fallen world, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It doesn’t matter if the reason for making a wrong choice was ‘good’ when that wrong choice is immoral and evil. In a fallen world, it is all too easy to see how this could happen. So these books are chilling. But encouraging, too, because they are written from the standpoint that the law was evil and that these children have a right to be ‘legal’ and heard and saved. Life is treated as precious in these books.

And the most chilling thing of all, I’ve been thinking as I read these books that it is only a short step from legalized abortion being euphemistically called choice, presented as a desirable option, and pregnancy being seen as a ‘punishment’ to one day being told you have to limit the number of children you have. That’s already how it is in China. You hear rumblings along those lines already over here from the people who are worried about ‘population overcrowding.’ We’re already considered unusual for having three kids, and my friends who have larger families are seen as weird, too, by some segments of society. On that note, Al Mohler had a good discussion a while ago about the real population threat, and I just read this today if you don't believe me about that short step slippery slope our culture is on.

We live in an increasingly child un-tolerant society. Read this article I noticed the other day that I started to write a blog post about but never finished because it just made me so sad and I just couldn’t address all the reasons why. We are becoming so self-centered in our culture that we just don’t want to be bothered with children or we are surprised when raising them inconveniences us and our ‘happiness’ in some way, and I find that sad, disturbing, and dangerous for the long term. I could have said soooo much more about my impressions after reading that article, but I won’t in this post. I don't know if I'll pull that other post out of the draft folder or not.

Anyway, I’m enjoying these books. Lots to think about and discuss with my son, and they are written on a level he can understand. I have about two and a half more to read before I’m finished. Hopefully I’ll like the ending, too.

1 comment:

Lisa writes... said...

My oldest two sons enjoyed that series as well. I may have to check it out myself since you know I have absolutely NOTHING to read, nothing at all, bless my heart...NOT! :-)