This summer my husband has been reading Grimm’s Fairytales to my young (7- and 4-year-old sons). The real and unedited version. He got a bee in his bonnet about it after we started watching the Grimm series on television and picked up a copy while we were out for a date night, one night at Barnes & Noble.
We argued about the book, a lot.
I didn’t think my sons needed to be exposed to such darkness. Violence makes me extremely uncomfortable. I don’t even like comic book vilians and superheroes — Batman and such. I don’t want them to see those movies.
Poignant to say, today, after what has happened in Colorado. So we argued about Grimm’s and in the end my husband and my boys won.
I like the idea of Grimm’s. For me. It’s a classic. I was curious to re-read it but I didn’t want to read it to my kids. I’m not one for difficult bedtime stories. I’ll Love You Forever is enough to make me sob and Peter Pan makes me tense start to finish. Too many unresolved relationship issues. If only Goodnight Moon didn’t get so boring after the hundredth read.
I can’t help it. It’s my instinct to protect my children from all the difficult, sad and bad things in the world. Bad things, bad people and even sad stories. I don’t want them to sleep with nightmares, with those thoughts and images in their heads.
To wake up and find these things real? It’s unfathomable to me.
Waking to your worst nightmare is pretty much what happened to the families and friends of those involved with the Colorado shooting last night and I can only imagine how dark the woods seem to them right now.
I’m not sharing the story of what happened in Colorado with my younger children today. I don’t see the point of it. Would knowing that these horrible things can happen in the blink of an eye really help them navigate the world in some way? Prepare them for their future?
It certainly wouldn’t help them sleep at night.
I questioned my husband when he insisted on reading the boys Grimm’s this summer, but now I’m not so sure I was right to do so. There is a reason these tales have stuck around so long. They help us process the real life stories and events that plague us. I want to protect them from it all, but of course I can’t. My husband saw these stories as an opportunity to toughen them with tidy fiction that delivers a slight chill followed by justice and a comforting kiss and a tuck in.
I’ve tolerated the fairytales because for the most part, they have happy endings. As awful as the bad guys are, there is a certain literary justice that exists between the pages. Similar to the end of Harry Potter, which my almost 8-year-old son has devoured. There is pain and suffering and there are casualties. But there is also justice, and hope.
The boys surprised me. They love Grimms.
If only real life were more like a fairytale, even the Grimm’s kind. The book on what just happened in Colorado cannot be closed. The nightlight can’t seal out the darkness. Real life villains are infinitely harder to understand than fictional ones and impossible to predict. Every so often we are painfully reminded that the bogeyman, in whatever form, is real.
I don’t want to raise fools, I don’t want to paint a picture of a falsely secure world. But I just cannot bring myself to discuss these types of events with them at this time. It would be opening a Pandora’s box that I’m not sure I could ever close for them.
Why include them in the brutal sorts of reality that take hold of my own imagination and strike fear in my heart?
You have to be very brave to hear such stories and go on flying on planes, sending kids to school and now, going to the movies. For now, I’m not telling my little kids about what happened. I’m just going to keep letting them read fairytales.
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