Pax’s FOMO is driving me crazy. (Note for Mom: ‘fear of missing out’.) His older brother, Raines, recently read The Hunger Games. By himself. He didn’t listen to it on tape, I didn’t read it to him…he read the entire thing on his own — and loved it. This is a notable achievement for a kid who has, historically, struggled with reading. But now…he wants to see the movie. 

Herein lies the problem.

I have a pretty strict rule that if you want to see the movie, you have to read the book first. It allows your mind free rein to build the book’s images in your imagination (not just use Hollywood’s version), and, even better, reduces arguments about appropriate movies (too young to read it = to young to watch it).

As you can likely guess, Raines is super-excited to watch the movie. And, frankly, I’m excited to watch it with him! Books and stories are kind of our thing, and Raines has often curled up next to me while I’m on my Kindle, and asked me to tell him the story I’m reading. If he likes it (and he usually does — we’re both nerdy Sci-Fi fans), he’ll check back in with me every few days to have me re-tell the next bit of the story. The Hunger Games was one of those books we first shared together (I only told him about the first half or so), and it’s pretty cool that he’s now read it himself.

But Pax quickly realized — almost from the second Raines finished the book — that there was likely a movie screening in the future, one that would NOT involve him. Cue instant freak-out. I did The Parenting Thing and had a talk with Pax. My initial strategy (“we’ll just wait until you are at a super-fun sleepover!!”) totally backfired (“I can’t believe MY OWN MOTHER WOULD SEND ME AWAY SO SHE AND RAINES CAN WATCH A MOVIE!!!!”) so I ended up just going with some hard truths: Raines is older. He read the book. He’s excited to watch the movie. I’m excited for him. BE HAPPY FOR YOUR BROTHER, PAX.

I’ll give him some credit: the kid is getting better at knowing when the battle is lost. But if you think he’s giving up the war, THINK AGAIN. The next thing I know, Pax is curled up with his Kindle, reading…yup: The Hunger Games.

He’s eight. And reads like a perfectly normal eight year old. There’s nothing about this book — not the plot, not the vocabulary — that is developmentally appropriate for an eight-year-old. What. Do I. Even. DO? WHAT. 

While I mentally debate, Pax stubbornly keeps trying to get through the book. There is no joy in his reading, only dogged determination and fear. He’s so flipping afraid that we’re all going to snuggle up together and watch this movie without him.

Which, of course, is exactly the plan.

This is a book that should be devoured. It’s a page-turner! Such a mind-bending, thrilling way to realize that books can make you think. Pax is reading it with a desperation that is breaking my heart (and missing the point of reading). He is not, however, missing any of the plot points, which I find confusing. He’s got the subject matter locked down tight, despite his limited vocabulary.

Soooo…at what point am I considered a terrible mother if I wake Raines up in the middle of the night to watch The Hunger Games? It would have to be a Life Secret between Raines and I. I mean…Pax could NEVER KNOW.

Decisions, man. No one warned me about this kind of next-level parenting shit where literally no one wins. Toddler problems seem SO much freaking easier to solve.  

Maybe I’ll just bribe him with shoes. Since we’re already on the topic of Bad Decisions Made By Pax’s Mother, perhaps I’ll offer to take him shopping. The kid loves new shoes and scoped out these sweet Harry Potter snitch sneaks at Vans. The vibe is more Greek god than Harry Potter, but they’re seriously cool. 

Oh hello, gray. That sexy little off-shoulder zip tee is on sale at Free People (featured here in red)…and the only colors left are beige, black, and…gray. Oh happy neutrals. How I love thee. It’s perfect for cooler days at the beach. If you really want the free shipping (over $100), I’d also pick up this cute little one-shoulder tank, these oversized beaded hair clips (for that trendy side-clip thing) aaaaand….hang on….this anklet. Done.

You can always count on me. …for oddly expensive things you don’t need. And yet: I swooned — with that happy little rush in my heart — when I saw this denim jumpsuit. Basically sold out, but Nordstrom has exactly one of each size in stock, and Neiman has it fully stocked if it haunts your dreams as it does mine.

Found my summer jeans. These Levi’s are perfectly straight legged, raw hemmed, and have a rise that’s high (yet stretchy and v. comfortable). The wash is freaking perfect, too. Photos coming soon. (Size up, though – I’m wearing a 26.)

In our latest episode of Wear Whatever the Hell You Want…Scotti sent over this photo of my mom rocking the heck out of this sequin jumpsuit. Yeah Nana. (Her fringed leather vest? Vintage. SWOON.)

One heck of a strong argument for Fortnite. I completely agree with this NYT piece, written by a fellow mom of a Fortnite-obsessed kid. There are a couple of kids at school that one of my little guys always eyed suspiciously….until they started playing Fortnite together. Now? All good.  

Shake it. Laura, per reader request, pulled together her latest Dance Party In The Kitchen Playlist. (The title was my doing…but we alllll know it’s true.)

Enjoy your weekend!




  1. I’m so not a parent, so take my advice with a giant grain of salt, but… would it be so terrible to let him finish the book (stubbornly) and then watch the movie with y’all? I was a precocious reader with immigrant parents who never checked my books for “age appropriate” content. I would have loved Hunger Games at age 8. Even if Pax doesn’t have the reading level yet to fully enjoy the book, that doesn’t mean he isn’t getting something out of it now and will get something MORE out of rereading it in a few years.

  2. I have a super precocious 8 year old bookworm and finding sufficiently interesting but age-appropriate books has been challenging. It’s a tricky age because there’s a real content shift in books for 10-14 year olds that just is not where my 8 year old is emotionally but vocab-wise would gobble it up. And I realise this is a desirable problem to have… but It’s still a challenge and I know some really-too-old stuff has slipped through. Diana Wynne Jones has been my go-to author so far but I’d love more book ideas if you have them!

  3. I don’t get it – if you didn’t want him to read the book, then why or how could he acquire it on his Kindle? There are parental controls for that…..but – if he’s ok reading it – then he’s ok seeing it. My kids are 23 and 20 and they turned out better than fine – read things way beyond their age and both are in graduate school. Don’t worry so much.

  4. I understand where Shana’s coming from. And I also understand the other comments. Parenting in not black and white. I had much different expectations for my oldest than I do my my youngest. Everyone’s mores are malleable… thank goodness!

  5. My 11 year old son, who is historically also not very interested in reading, ended up reading the entire Hunger Games series in 5th grade this year. His classmates literally cheered him on as he would announce daily what page he had read to each day. We did watch the first movie together, downstairs, while my 9 year old daughter, who has not read the book yet was upstairs. Could you have two different “special” movies playing for each boy in different areas? What other book series do your boys enjoy? That would be a great post!

  6. As a teacher and a mom of similar ages children- my concern would be the content. Kids are killing other kids in the book for sport (and survival). My older one read the series, but I am going have the other one wait. He’d have nightmares after watching the movie.

  7. My kids are much younger, so haven’t leveled up to this type of challenge yet, but if they’re playing video games without making a direct correlation between the action and violence, then I’m of the opinion that they can read a much more nuanced narrative of violence among children and keep it in context without being overly traumatized. I mean, Panam is basically middle school. Good luck Shana!

  8. It’s ok to explain to a younger child that he/she is simply not old enough for every experience that the older sibling is ready for. Perhaps you and Pax could have a different experience together that Raines doesn’t join in with. Or Pax can have the same movie watching experience solo with mom when he is a little older. It’s tough to accept but younger siblings have to wait for some things. They won’t go to high school together. They won’t drive together. They won’t go to an “R” rated movie at the same time. All of us younger siblings had to learn this frustrating lesson.

  9. Suggestion: If your son liked Hunger Games, try the Alex Ryder series next. It is a page turner spy book good for 12 yr old boys and Moms of 12 yr old boys…or anyone that loves twists and turns! Happy summer reading!

  10. I love this rule of reading the book before seeing the movie! Once my boys can read, I’m totally copying it. (I have found most of my mom wins, like Friday pizza/movie night, are copied from other moms). Love that you’re raising readers and setting a great example yourself!

  11. I agree with everyone, let him read and see it unless he’s prone to nightmares or other big issues like that that impact the entire family. Kids can actually become more emotionally mature through reading by gaining a better understanding of the human mind and motivations.

  12. I agree with Anna. Speaking as the youngest child in my family, it’s just the way it is, and he will eventually get better with it if you stay consistent. Younger siblings get some advantages and older siblings get other advantages. He will whine, he will pout, but when Raines goes off to college and he has everything to himself, he may relish it. I did.

  13. This seems oddly mean-spirited. In the days before Kindle, you could get inappropriate reading material….at the library. You could read it during the school day if you didn’t want your parents to see it. I don’t think the kid picking up his mom’s or brother’s kindle (unlocked or not) is a crisis. And it’s great you can see this from the POV of a parent whose kids are already grown/launched, but….there are nicer words to use than “don’t worry so much.” Perhaps provide some examples on how you came to accept that reading more mature material benefited your kids? Then we could all benefit.

  14. Laura, your message brought back memories of reading V.C. Andrews under my bed. Haha! talk about inappropriate! And didn’t we all grunt our way though books we had no hope of *really* understanding, just because we were assigned them in school? Reading is not always its own reward, even if the book is classic, ugh!
    I’d offer that even if P. does grunt his way through the book, keep the movie off the table. Then the idea of growing into certain privileges becomes more concrete. It’ll come up again when the oldest gets a phone, and lots of times in between…

  15. Poor Pax, poor mom. This is a tough one. I don’t think you would be objectively a bad parent to let Pax strain and read or watch something that may be beyond his years. It’s ok for kids to struggle, and it’s ok for them to see or know about things they can’t yet understand (I mean, really, if understanding were a prerequisite I myself would not be allowed to read the news most of the time). But of course this is a sort of very individual parenting decision.

    It seems like you want to protect Pax a bit longer, so I think the key is not anything about this book or this movie, but just that Pax feels left out. And if he’s anything like my kids, probably most of that is focused on wanting your attention. So I’d pick out something super special and Pax-like (probably not the shoes or buying anything, although maybe) – a special activity for just you and Pax. That way Raines isn’t getting something he’s not getting. They’re just taking turns. And have Mike do something fun with Pax while you’re with Raines. He might not fall for it, he might still be upset, but I really think the key is to help him feel like he’s still getting just as much attention as his brother.

    And I want to know your summer reading list. I need some good, fun reads.

    • Thank you for this – and I will work on a summer reading list. I have a few good ones I’ve read lately – hopefully they’re new to you, too. (I oscillate between fluffy chick lit and sci-fi, though. Just a warning. 🙂

  16. I actually remember not letting one of my sons read Hunger Games until 6th grade because of the imagery that haunted me as an adult reader, knowing that he was sensitive. His teacher had recommended it (!), and it was a funny position to be put in, saying no. I had him wait to 6th grade, and then he saw the movie. He just finished his first year of high school and I recently took him to his first R rated movie, the hilarious indie Booksmart. It was so fun to share that experience with him, to have a one on one experience appreciating the more adult humor and quirky tone. It was never even on the table for my youngest, but she definitely felt left out, especially because her older brothers are always invited to see the movies she wants to see, and about half the time will choose to come along. I guess I’m on the side of it’s ok for kids to have to wait for things. You just need to be clear in your own head why they should wait, and then honestly share that with them.

    • Ahhhhhh I love this comment. Aren’t dates with your little guy the BEST? It’s been such a joy watching them turn into real people. xoxoxo

  17. This brings back so many memories bc I had the same situation years ago with my boys -they are now 14 and 17. What’s helped over the years is that i repeatedly tell them that I treat them “fairly” but that doesn’t mean the “same”. Not to say they don’t complain about it from time to time but they’ve learned to trust that it’s true.

  18. I wondered how Raines felt about the situation. I tend to think about the less intense child and worry a bit that they often have to adjust while the more intense sibling is having their intensity filled throw downs. I struggled with this dynamic with my own kids. I think it can be a good thing to hold space for those less intense sibs and give them a bit of structured parental support. I thought your initial response to Pax was just right. Also? I was also a really early reader who read really non age appropriate stuff. It made me more interested in reading because it was a bit forbidden. Made school and life better and more enjoyable for me. Good luck as you work to solve the puzzle. You are doing a great job. Hang in there!

    • YES. THIS: “I think it can be a good thing to hold space for those less intense sibs and give them a bit of structured parental support.” I totally get this. Raines is often in the position of having to accommodate and just roll with it…but I know I need to protect his needs, even as he brushes them aside for his brother.

  19. Yep! Hold space. You have very solid gut responses. I’m a 30 year veteran teacher and an autism mom. Gifted ed specialist. Behavior specialist. English teacher. And please know I am cheering for you and your sweet family!

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