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June 22, 2011

Childhood Horror Stories...Or Have I Just Gotten Sensitive in My Old Age???

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???


Trish said...

This is funny, and I've thought this many times myself!! My girls love, and I mean LOVE, Snow White. And frankly, it is downright scary and evil when I watch it! The huntsman comes after her with a knife, then all that stuff with the queen and the poisoned apple...but they still love it. So electro-shock therapy may be in our future! And we were just watching a Barney video that had the 3 Billy Goats Gruff...and the troll comes out and says "Hello, I've come out to greet you, and now I'm going to EAT you" ! I've also noticed in a lot of the children's songs on our CDs there's some "interesting" and "scary" stuff!

championm2000 said...

We haven't gotten that far in our reading journey, but I think you make some great points here. Maybe the reason I am like I am is because I read these stories at a young age...hahaha...

Marcia (123 blog) said...

SO true - I don't know what we're going to do because D especially is very much like you, about "guarding their hearts" LOL

Quadmama said...

I've often wondered why my parents read me fairy tales. They're scary!! I've found myself going through books to figure out if I'll need to change any words when I'm reading aloud to my girls, but what happens when they master reading?

April said...

Omg!! We've been talking about the same things!! B hates the ones where they talk about eating the babies, too! :)


Andrea said...

I think you share what you are comfortable in sharing and cross that bridge when they are old enough to understand the difference with everything else. I never want to shelter to much, but don't think scaring them is the right thing to do either. Interesting food for thought...

Happy Wednesday! :)

Mandy said...

I just put a fairy tale book away for the same reason! I like to think that I wasn't too adversely affected and right now I don't think my girls would notice. But I'm almost certain a 3 to 4 year old would begin to question exactly what is happening in these fables!

I cringe a little while we play ring around the rosie, thinking "if they only knew...". But they love it and I know one day, just like I did, they will discover the truth and hopefully be just as shocked as I was.

I'd also like to hope they'll breeze over thinking me a horrible mother for letting them read such things!

Helene said...

My parents never read fairytales to me...actually they never read to me period. The books I tend to read to the kids are the library books that they pick out or ones we've collected over the years.

They may be too young to understand the exact words now but yeah...I can see your point completely.

Unknown said...

I was just talking about this the other day with a mom at the library - we both laughed at some of the movies we've seen now as adults with our kids that we watched as kids - and the things we notice/hear now that I don't recall as a kid. Crazy! I guess if we heard/saw the same thing as kids and we turned out ok...our kids should, too, right? (but it does make me think twice about what they read/hear/see!)

Rebecca said...

OMG!!! I've been meaning to blog about this FOREVER! It's horrific...and you can totally see why step-mothers get a bad rap in life too, right?

reanbean said...

We only have one very, very simplified book of fairy tales out in the kids' book collection. But even these versions that don't include violence, don't have the greatest messages. Goldilocks is so rude to just go into someone else's home like that. And Jack gets praised for stealing the goose from the giant. But still, it feels like a beginning into the classics. My guess is that I'll feel more comfortable with the real versions once I can be more certain that my kids have a better grip on reality versus fantasy. So, probably not until elementary school.

We've also changed some of the words in the nursery rhyme books. In Sing a Song of Sixpence, we say, "along came a blackbird and kissed her on the nose." and in The Old Woman in the Shoe, we say, "She gave them some broth, and plenty of bread, then kissed them all soundly and sent them to bed." It works for now.