So. Parents. Let’s have a conversation.
I love Ready Player One. But, RPO is NOT an appropriate book to listen to. In the car. With your six year old (6YO). Who believes in God. And Santa. And the Easter Bunny. My wife and I first “read” it on Audible a few years ago on a road trip. The child was less than 3 at the time and asleep for most of it, but she was young enough that we weren’t concerned about what she heard too much. She heard curse words, and it wasn’t about sex and murder, so … why not.
I KNOW – it’s not a kids book. This isn’t about how to parent. but with that said … OMG, what have we done?
So what had happened was …
The 6YO was falling asleep, and I wanted something to engage my brain on the hour+ drive to the aquarium. So we started RPO over. Sounded like fun. Plus, 6YO was falling asleep in the back seat. Nothing to worry about here.
There beginning of the book is Wade’s introduction to his life and how he was lied to about everything. Wade’s the protagonist, and he’s had a rough life. He lives in a trailer park, in a “stack” of mobile homes, with 16 people in the same place. At one point he comments on how he wishes someone had told him that God was a lie.
As every word is spoken I realize this is not right. I glance back at 6YO who … is awake … I look at my wife, wide-eyed, and she looks at me. Our eye-message is clear “oh shit.” We’re both holding back laughter, poorly. I keep glancing at 6YO and she’s still listening. Intently. More deeply than she’s ever listened to anything ever. The full statement … got worse.
God was a lie. Santa was a lie. The Easter Bunny was a lie.
I’m now crying I’m laughing so hard, but I’m really trying to not let any of it out, so my body is convulsing slightly, but other than that and the damp eyes, I’m as calm as a cucumber. That’s what I’m telling myself.
All the while, 6YO is sitting in the backseat.
She’s staring at me.
Seriously, I wish I had a picture of her.
The darts in her eyes are so strong.
She says nothing but continues to listen.
A few minutes go by, the story moves on. I make the “maybe we’re ok” face to my wife.
Then, out of nowhere, she loses it.
“Why did he lie about God?”
Oh, no. Her voice is very direct. Very clear. No sadness, but lots of conviction.
“Why did he lie about Santa? Why did he lie about the Easter Bunny?!?”
OMG – I’m not ready for this. I’m laughing, and crying, and I just don’t know what to do with my life.
We paused the book. Deep breath.
We spoke about “stories” and “fiction.” We spoke about personal beliefs. Not too deeply, but we reminded her that different people believe different things. We reminded her that this “character” in this “fictional story” believes this. And that’s all he’s saying. We didn’t say he was right … or wrong. She seemed ok with it all. She clearly didn’t like him “lying” but she also didn’t question it further.
I think we averted this crisis but the dam has been cracked and it’s only a matter of time until the water breaks free.
And, oh yeah, she wants an Elf on the Shelf.