Years ago I wrote on the topic of fairy tales for young children as an early childhood “expert,” how they aren’t developmentally appropriate because many young children cannot distinguish between what’s real and what’s not real, but now I’m revisiting the topic as a parent. And I feel a little differently.
I want Ev to know what storytelling is. I don’t want to say I’ll never read him a fairy tale or a fable because I have fond memories of my mom reading to me about Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and the Tortoise and the Hare. There are underlying messages in these stories that I want to be able to talk about with him. Just recently we shared the story of the mouse and the lion, where the lion is going to eat the mouse but decides to be kind and free him, instead. Then later when the lion falls into a trap, the mouse hears him crying and comes to help. Ev and I talked about being kind and helpful and why that’s important. These are the kinds of stories I want to continue to share.
The blog that originally inspired my previous post suggests that children, “like generations before them… understand the stories as they are intended: fairy tales teach us about life…. and the moral of it all is that it ends well for those who deserve it and bad for those who don’t.” I disagreed with the blogger then, but despite the fact that I do now share some of these stories with my son, I also still hold to how I felt: we should be careful and thoughtful when we choose stories to tell our children, or books to read, or even what TV shows we watch.
Parenting is about making choices and doing what feels right for you and your family. For me it’s considering what I know about Ev: I know he is a thinker and a worrier. I also know that he has bad dreams quite often. Stories with ghosts and witches may only confuse him, and because I don’t want him to feel scared or uncertain about storytelling, I avoid those kinds of stories. I won’t be telling Ev about witches who kidnap children or wolves who eat grandmas but I will continue to share stories from my childhood, like the one about the mouse and the lion. And hopefully he’ll remember the morals.