Just Stick Those Pages Together, Honey

I worry, sometimes, that I worry too much (ah, the circle of worry) about whether my kids can handle certain concepts/subjects: will it upset her? Can she handle it? Is it too much?

Case in point: Babar. We love Babar. But in that very first Babar book, you know what happens, don't you?

Beforedeath

That's right, his mother is shot and killed. And it's really awful.

Back when I had all sorts of clear ideas about how things should be, about how kids need to be aware of the cycle of life, and they should be taught good manners and remain quiet, and people should try to live their own lives instead of centering everything on their children, ie: before I had children, I thought that one ought to just read a book like this through, so your kids wouldn't end up, I don't know, soft?

But then I went ahead and had children and that screwed everything up. Instead of being charmed and engaged by "Are You My Mother?" they were horrified, both by the Snort, and by the whole idea of a baby bird not being able to find its mother. They wept over Five Little Ducks, who went out one day, but only four little ducks came back. The whole charming children reading classic books was a bit more intense than I had anticipated.

I was talking about this back then with a very smart mom, one who was way ahead of me on the parenting life-cycle, with grown-up children. She was so much more relaxed than I was, so much more unshakable. So I asked her about it, thinking she was going to tell me and my sensitive children to just get over it, to deal with reality, not to take it so hard. But instead she said, "Oh my God, Babar? You just stick those pages together, honey. Put toothpaste on them, so they never come apart, and go to the next page." And you know what? It works.

They grow up. They confront death—there isn't much choice. The world comes for them, as much as they go into the world. And you can still read Babar and have those pages stuck together, and they'll do just fine. There's no rush; they'll get there. So if you're struggling with something, just stick those pages together and move on. There's no reason to look at that page if you're not ready.

This is what I am trying to teach myself. I hope I learn it by the time they're ready to go.

6 thoughts on “Just Stick Those Pages Together, Honey

  1. See, I thought you were going to talk about the picture of the old elephant king who was poisoned by a mushroom. The mother thing never bothered me.

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  2. LOVE this post! I want to read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to my daughter, but the whole Santa thing is in there, I don’t know if I can skip any more because she CAN READ WELL now. The wool cannot be pulled over the eyes as easily.

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  3. It’s funny how different things affect different kids. Brynna didn’t bat an eye at the mother in Babaar, but we are reading this series of phonics books about different animals, and the last page of each book is dedicated to that animal’s diet… Brynna is completely and totally horrified that polar bears eat seals. that’s a page I should have skipped.

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  4. I know I’m late on the response here, but have you ever read the essay “Should We Burn Babar?” by Herbert Kohl? He saw a completely different set of problems with the book – in particular how it seems to so closely mirror the history of colonialism from the perspective of the victors. It’s a fascinating essay, even if you don’t agree with his very radical perspective on children’s lit.

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  5. What a wise friend. And toothpaste! Now you have a kid-friendly book that smells minty fresh!
    I never thought about this particular situation; we have a couple of later Babar books, but there’s nothing scary in there. But I think that’s a really important point: yes, your kids are going to learn about death and Santa and sex and everything else. But you get to help decide when. If they’re too young to handle a particular idea, it’s okay not to force it. The day will come, way too soon, when they are.

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