When the girls were infants, I spent endless hours just reading to them. I cycled through every children’s book from their bookshelves [several times!], including a large number of books from when I was a child.
I read several collections of fairytales to the girls. If not from my own childhood, I at least remembered from high school and college literature studies that fairytales often have a pretty violent twist to them…and my recollections were confirmed many times over.
The evil plots, death, and acid-trip scenarios (a la Alice in Wonderland) were enough to give this hormonal post-partum mama nightmares…but I rationalized that the girls were too young to be affected by the content…as long as I didn’t get too theatrical with my “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fums”.
We largely moved away from fairytales before the girls turned a year old, in favor of picture books, and then more simple text.
For the girls’ second birthday, I found what I thought was a great collection “first” fairytales, simplified versions of several classic stories.
It wasn’t long before I shelved that book, too, though. The idea of the poor miller’s daughter promising to give her first-born child to Rumplestiltskin was more than I thought the girls needed to know about the slave trade.
And the prince having to find a “real” princess, one that could detect a pea under twenty blankets and twenty mattresses…what kind of lesson is that?
Although these stories were still fresh in my mind, I made an impulse purchase off the clearance table at the bookstore last week (one that I’ve since returned). I saw “The Three Bill Goats Gruff”, and I couldn’t help but smile at the sweet memory of my parents’ “trip-trop, trip-trop” as the goats crossed that bridge.
When I got home and paged through the book (ahead of reading it to the girls, thank goodness!), I was horrified to read:
Well, come along! I’ve got two spears,
And I’ll poke your eyeballs out at your ears!
I’ve got besides two great, flat stones,
And I’ll crush you to bits, body and bones!
Did my parents read that to me??? Did they edit the text and replace it with something less sinister??? Or did they read it to me in all its guts and glory…and perhaps then sent me to electro-shock therapy sessions to suppress such ugly memories???
No doubt I grew up reading all these classic tales. And – at least in my opinion – I don’t seem to be too scarred. And while I love the notion of sharing things I remember from my childhood with my girlies, I can’t seem to bring myself to read them many of these stories.
Certainly there are many other parts of my childhood – like baking and climbing trees – that I can share with my girls without fearing so much for their psychological wellbeing.
But will my girls be missing an integral part of growing up without reading “The Princess and the Pea”?
Or should I go ahead and read them those stories, while I squirrel away a bit of money each month for future electro-shock therapy sessions???