On Not Being Nice

So, there's this book about an elephant. And it's a perfectly nice
book. Really. The elephant feels like his shadow is a
friend, and then there is a cloudy day, and he can't see his friend,
and he gets extremely sad.
It all works out in the end. In case you were worrying.
However, for reasons I can't exactly put my finger on, I don't like this book. I just—don't.
This
would all have been fine, if I had simply seen the book once, maybe
read it, then moved on. But this was not to be. The Younger loved this
book. LOVED it. And she wanted to read it. A lot.
Now, I understand that this is simply one of those things that is a
parent's lot. Children are, of course, not adults; they have different
tastes, ways, desires, etc. And I am not one who believes that we
should fine-tune their aesthetics when they're 5, so they eat only
Stilton and hate Barney. One of my great regrets as a parent is
making fun of Barney to the Younger, when her affection for him was
pure and good. Does the world really need one more person making fun of
something for being babyish? I think not—that's what mean girls do.
There's enough of that out there in the world without adding to it. When did being like a baby become a bad thing? Babies are OK by me. And
since I've been known to decree: "No making fun of what other people
like," it would be nice to follow that maxim. Right?
Except.
For
some reason this nice little elephant really got to me. It wasn't like
the distaste I feel for the Disney Princesses, or Strawberry Shortcake,
or My Little Pony, where I feel like I actually had a leg to stand on.
It was…smaller. Of me. I just had something against the elephant.
Nothing high-minded; just personal dislike. And yes, I read it. Not
well,though, or with great feeling, or kindly. I never brought it out as a,
"Hey, we haven't read this one in a while…" though I know it would
have made her happy. But I did read it. Over and over and over, until
it went the way of all things babyish. And I have nothing left to
accuse myself with, but the small thorn of feeling that I am not as generous a person, or a reader, as I would wish.

What they're reading now
The Elder: Children of the Lamp
The Younger: Are You My Mother? If possible, adults should read the amazing Joy Williams story, The Wedding, that references this book. It's in her book Taking Care, also in American Short Story Masterpieces, and it is funny and dark and bracing.

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