Sunday, September 30, 2012

Life Lessons I Learned From Fairy Tales

Do not touch a spindle (Sleeping Beauty).

When planning a party don't leave anybody out (again Sleeping Beauty).

If you don't feel like eating an apple, by all means, do not eat one (Snow White).

It's okay to let your hair grow long (Rapunzel).

 Pebbles are better than crumbs (Hansel and Gretel).

 Pick up the shoe. It's right behind you, just pick it up (Cinderella).

 If an old witch steals your beautiful voice just use a pen and paper (The Little Mermaid).

And finally, if your grandmother looks like a wolf it's probably time to see an optometrist (Red Riding Hood).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Move Over "Hunger Games"

"Not another fairy tale..."

A few months ago, I debated (briefly) whether Hunger Games was an appropriate book for my ten year old son. Then I remembered the fairy tales I had read him as a child. Even now I feel a little guilty.
That's some seriously scary stuff. So, if you are just starting out as a parent, I thought maybe I should warn you. 

Let's see, Beatrix Potter. Sure it's a classic, the illustrations are gorgeous, and you're fully intentioned on visiting the Lake District at some point but- beware- this series is not for the faint hearted. Examples:

1) Jemima Puddle Duck Innocent duck held prisoner by a crafty fox intent on cooking her...scary.

2) The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies  Farmer McGregor tying up the cute, adorable, sleeping flopsy bunnies in a sack so that the skins can line his wife's cloak...even scarier.

3) Tom Kitten Cute little kitty falls into the clutches of a greedy rat. The rat rolls him up in some dough with a rolling pin to enjoy some Kitten Dumpling...scariest.

Now. let's check out the Grimms Fairy Tales. Take your pick. And, unlike Beatrix Potter, you know this is some seriously scary stuff. But you just can't help yourself. You probably read this as a child. I know I did. Why deprive your child of all those witches, evil stepmothers, and catastrophic chain of events unleashed when an unsuspecting orphan child walks alone into the woods at night?

4) Snow White The witch? Need I say more? I had to cover the illustration where she's holding the poisoned apple with my hand while reading the story to not terrorize my daughter. 

5) Sleeping Beauty A witch called Maleficent who holds a grudge because she wasn't invited to the party. Seriously scary (on the plus side can be used as a lesson on why it's nice to include everybody).

6) Rapunzel  Probably the very last princess in your daughter's princess phase before she moves on to fairies, unicorns, and barbie dolls- all way less scary than a little girl getting locked up in a high tower for years by an evil witch with a high pitched laughter.

7) Hansel and Gretel  Two little children left in a forest to starve to death by their evil stepmother but then lured into a candy house owned by a witch who wants to fatten them up so she them?!

8) The Enormous Crocodile  Roald Dahl's delightful tale about a sneaky crocodile who disguises himself as a picnic table or a see saw so he can (you guessed it) eat the children who sit on him. Years of fun for the entire family (when your child wakes up with crocodile-themed nightmares).

9)  Little Red Riding Hood Where do I start? A wolf disguised as a sick grandmother, really?

10) Peter Pan Notwithstanding the double whammy: Captain Hook and a crocodile this was hands down my daughter's favorite. So, what story scared you most as a kid? Fess up. Personally,  I'm no longer scared the wicked witch from the Wizard of Oz is hiding under my bed.
I just check because I want to.

(Caveat: Do not automatically discard these titles, in an ironic twist of fate, the scariest story might turn out to be your kid's favorite.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Tropical Childhood

I was kind of surprised last night when Eliot offhandedly mentioned she had been told to not drink from the water fountain outside the girls' bathroom at school because there may be a tiny cobra in there. "We have to use the boys' one...just in case." Huh?!
This from the girl who is afraid of ants.
I'm thinking she's not clear on what a cobra is. I'm also thinking I don't want to be the one who tells her.
It seems fitting somehow that I am reading Alexandra Fuller's memoir about her African childhood. Maybe Eliot will one day write her memoir about growing up on the tropical island of Singapore.
Eliot is scared of crocodiles. I feel kind of guilty about that. When she was about five one of her bedtime stories was The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl (her request). It's a children's story but the illustrations of a crocodile disguising himself as a park bench or a see saw for unsuspecting children is amusing in a disturbing way. That reading choice made over two years ago may be the reason she still occasionally comes into my bed at 2 am reasoning: "I know crocodiles are in swamps but they could still crawl to our house because they do like children." Can't blame anybody but myself.

Monday, September 17, 2012

To Blog or Not To Blog...

Hey, tooth fairy!
Overthinking what is blogworthy (is that even a word?) has kept me away from writing. Things have happened, really. I've just not written about them.
So here's my Top Ten Things I Could Have Blogged About but just didn't.

1) Five days after leaving Singapore to travel home to Verona for the summer holidays, Eliot gets pneumonia. What are the odds? Actually pretty good considering that this time last year she got salmonella and needed to be hospitalized.

2) About a week after Eliot recovers, I too get pneumonia and need to be hospitalized for 4 days. My fever is so persistent that Italian doctors contemplate putting me in isolation because I have just come from Singapore. Good times.

3) Pneumonia-related topics: why antibiotics cost so much more in Singapore than they do in Italy, how food in Italian hospitals looks very tasty (though I am not well enough to eat it)...

4) The copious amount of reading done while recuperating from said pneumonia on a terrace with my two kids reading next to me (ironically the best part of my holiday).

5) My compulsive reading of Bill Bryson, Anna Quindlen, Kingsley Amis, David Foster Wallace, and Hilary Mantel. Alexander's choice of Bill Bryson and Dan Brown, Eliot's of Winx and Pop Pixie.

6) Once back in Singapore, the school nurse at Alexander's school desperately trying to contact me, on the very day I lose my phone in a taxi, because she suspects Alexander has broken his shoulder in PE. Luckily no fracture but on the day he's supposed to return to school, after recovery, he wakes up with 40 degree fever and tonsillitis!

7) Eliot's first day of school. Interesting.

8) Alexander's first day of school. Even more interesting.

9) On how amazing the essay: "Why I write," by Simon Schama in the Sunday Arts and Leisure section of the Financial Times. And why reading it makes me want to never write another word.

10) Or my personal favorite: on Eliot losing a tooth. Not because it is her first (though as far as topics in this blog go it certainly would qualify), but because of her decision to not put it immediately under the pillow but to hide it from the tooth fairy because "Alexander hasn't seen it yet."