Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Penderwicks Discussion

Over at Margaret's place, there is a discussion going on about the Penderwicks series that she raved about and an element of kissing that takes place. Since I also recommended it on this blog, I feel the need to relay my thoughts over there over here as well. I hope they clear up any concerns you might have.

You've been warned!

Margaret said:
...there is some talk of kissing in these books! It’s very mild and fairly sweet in its approach, but it does gnaw at me a little bit (thus, the postscript) because the oldest Penderwick daughter is only 12.
My concerns may have you nodding in agreement…or thinking that I’m a total prude. I accept that. When I was 12, I was kissing boys…and I’m neither proud of this fact nor desirous of a similar fate for my daughters. Why? Because I believe—with all the hindsight that my pre-conversion lifestyle affords me—that the first kiss should be saved for when you’re older…and (if possible) for “the one”.

Of course, I agree with Margaret. I believe my first kiss took place behind the coat closet in Kindergarten, my first "real" boyfriend was in the 4th grade... he even gave me jewelry. That was the world I grew up in and it was considered innocent and sweet at that time but the world has changed and if I could go back and do things over differently, I would. So, my thoughts were these:

Are you talking about in the third book when Jane actually does get kissed in the park by the skater boy, Dominic (the quick peck on the lips)? Because I thought that was very well done in showing the negative consequences of that decision based on Jane's reaction (giving him the "love poem") and then in his response when he tells her later "it meant nothing." We had a wonderful conversation about how misplaced affection and infatuation really doesn't mean the same thing as real love. When you see the problems it creates and how it affects Jane, it's not presented in a favorable light. And how the secular world does think it's OK for 12 years to date and exchange affection but if those things are supposed to be reserved for finding the person God has made for you to marry, then 12 really is a silly age to be participating in those things since no 12 year old is even close to being ready to marry (the 12 and 13 year old nodded their heads in fierce agreement). We also discussed the pressure that Dominic was responding to from his older brothers who had bound him to the dare in the first place. Wouldn't it have been more virtuous to have stood up to them instead of fold under their influence? Perhaps his encounter with Jane would be enough to help him see that girls are people with real feelings not playthings or scores to be tallied. (The blue words are just more thoughts expounded on here, not at Margaret's.) It was an opportunity for discussion just like the bad family situation presented in Jeffrey's life. 

I was initially hesitant to give these books to my kids because of the divorce factor. When you really do a character study of Jeffrey and his family situation through all of the books, you see that the divorce situation is most the difficult on the children and has far reaching ramifications. I can see where some people might be disappointed that those elements are in a children's story, but I look at how they are presented and dealt with before I determine if they are inappropriate.

Margaret mentions a conversation that takes place between Rosalind and Jane in which kissing Tommy is discussed to which Rosalind responds that it's none of her business.

I don't remember that scene specifically between Rosalind and Jane in the third book, but it doesn't surprise me because from the very beginning Jane is fixated on love and romance. It's very obvious even though she presents it as research for her latest Sabrina Starr story (which I believe is the character of Jane's subconscious). So, most likely inspired by her father's new "situation", these ideas of love and romance have entered Jane's awareness and she is mulling them over the best way she knows how... via her writing.

I think it could be used as an excellent example and caution to young girls to not allow themselves to become captivated by an unrealistic idea of romance. I've known one too many young girls, myself included, who's infatuation with "romance" led them to make stupid decisions most of which ultimately lead to a "broken heart". I want my daughters (and sons) to have a correct understanding of romance in it's proper place and age!



  1. Charlotte, thanks for your thoughts on this. This third book is in our summer basket.

  2. Charlotte, I love what you say here. you handled hard themes so gracefully with your children. I too was in love with romance and oh goodness did it get me into a world of heartbreak. I really want to spare my daughters that.

    This is precisely where I find fiction so valuable. Talking about my own experiences would be a minefield. Not sure I want to go there. But talking about what happens to characters in a book allows you to really dig into these kinds of issues in a much safer way.

    Same thing with divorce. Talking about the divorces in our own families is fraught with peril. So much better to be able to look at the situation of characters in a book and use them to really dissect the ways it is so painful.

    I still keep in my heart wise words I read from a blogger long ago who said that when we see people acting badly in real life charity demands that we not dissect their actions but treat them with respect. But we do need to teach our children to avoid such behaviors. Novels allow us to criticize the behaviors in a safe way where we are not gossiping or acting uncharitably because well they are just characters in a book.

  3. I really appreciate your thoughts on this. We have just started the first book. I appreciate your candor in saying that you do not want your daughters to make the mistakes that you did. I feel the same way and we have frequent discussions on modesty and attitudes of society and how it is going to be hard to be different sometimes. On the last day of school, my children were allowed to wear bathing suits to school for a water slide party, and we discussed later why it was inappropriate for the girls who chose to wear bikinis. It seems that every day I have to explain why we are "different" and sometimes it is discouraging!

  4. "We had a wonderful conversation about how misplaced affection and infatuation really doesn't mean the same thing as real love." <--Exactly. And I think the story backs this up with what happens. Rosalind comes to terms with how silly she has been in regards to Cagney, for example.

    My kids are getting ready to read the first in the series (I just got done with it) and I gave them a heads up on the kissing talk towards the end of the book and essentially expressed the same thoughts as yours quoted above. I'm starting the second book now. Thank you for this follow up post.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!