Einstein and Fairytales

Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” So this weekend when we went camping, I decided that the best way to get the kids to fall asleep would be to tell them stories, on the condition that their eyes were closed. So long as the eyes were closed, I would keep talking. I started with Alice in Wonderland.

That. Man. Was. On. Shrooms.

That got me thinking, we make our kids watch stuff like PBS shows because we want the morals and the skills in the stories to rub off on them, right? My two-year-old sings, “When you have to go potty, STOP! And go right away!” (Daniel Tiger did more potty training at my house than I did.)
So why do we read them stuff like “Peter Pan” and “Hansel and Gretel”? Do you know what happens in the Brothers Grimm version of “The Princess and the Frog”? I’ll give you a hint: she doesn’t kiss the frog. Those guys were seriously morbid. And maybe a little sexist. And Hans Christian Anderson, how about that guy? The little mermaid does NOT marry the prince she’s in love with… she turns into SEA FOAM AND DISAPPEARS! How very…. anticlimactic.

So now I’m thinking, “I don’t want my kids reading this trash, it will taint their minds forever and they will think there are no easy answers to life’s problems. They might even begin to think that wishing on a star doesn’t get them what they want. I’d better let them watch SpongeBob instead. That will keep their childlike innocence intact.”

I want to protect my kids from ugliness. I want to make sure that they don’t have to deal with scary, bad things until they have to. Until they’re old enough to comprehend it.
But I also want them to think for themselves, I want them to stand on their own feet, I want them to rely on themselves and each other, and I never, ever, ever want them to take what they have or what they want for granted. I want them to work for what they get, and be grateful for it. I want them to understand that there are people out there that don’t have their best interests at heart and yes, some of those people might be someone you’re supposed to trust, like a teacher or a policeman or a pastor. Or a stepparent, like Hansel and Gretel’s. Or a friend, like Peter Pan.

So now I’m thinking that maybe Einstein had a point (go figure) and fairytales are just what my littles need to open their mind to the possibilities, in a non-traumatizing way. Maybe reading Aesop’s Fables is a better way to make them cautious than drilling them about what to do if someone says “Don’t tell your mommy.” (Yes, we do that, too)

I still don’t think it was necessary to throw the poor enchanted frog across the room, though.



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