Saturday, September 24, 2005

Do you like green eggs and ham?

My little tyke is turning one in a couple of weeks. “I can hardly believe it” is the clichéd, yet completely apt response. It will not surprise that I think she is a particularly bright cookie but I am hardly the only one (and not everyone else who thinks that is related to her). She already had a fair understanding of what is being said to her and, if you say a word, will try to repeat it. Which, most of the time, means that she says the first syllable. So, her favourite toys are ‘Boo’. No guesses? Books. She loves them. Brings them round for me to show her the pictures. Doesn’t yet have the patience to sit while I read the stories to her. Is able to point to things if you name them... sometimes.

I don’t have full control over the books she gets given so she has a few that are filled with soppy ‘princess gets married’ stories. A good example is the sheer awfulness of Thumbelina. Hans Christian Andersen has a lot to answer for, I think. I mean, what will my tyke think once she understands the ongoing story of the matrimonial woes of that silly and useless angel? Early preparation for a life-time reading about J.Lo’s love-life in the glossies? No thank you. So, I try to open up to her the joy that is Dr. Seuss. Crazy, slightly wicked stories that are just right for little kids, with pictures that are a wonder to look at. Yes, definitely The Cat in the Hat is much better for her than another story about some good-for-nothing princess waiting for her prince to save her. Seriously, there is something about those books which works far more on what I imagine is the child’s level than the dumbed down grown-up stories with their fixation on well-disguised sexual mores and trenchantly laid-out plots. Thankfully, there plenty more where Dr. Seuss came from. For example, the absurd take on marriage one gets in The Owl and the Pussycat. Or, the silliness of The Grufallo. Lots of good stuff out there, so long as you have plenty of money, wrapped up in a five pound note.

Which brings me to another thing that I’ve been doing. I have been introducing my little one to lots of traditional rhymes and songs like The Grand Old Duke of York and Old MacDonald – a favourite for the animal noises. When I start singing to her she now stands up and starts wiggling on the spot – her take on dancing – and, if the song calls for it, tries to clap.

What particularly bothers me is that some busy-body bought her “A Children’s Bible” with big pretty pictures of Christ doing his thing. I was staggered when I found it on her book-shelf one day. My wife, of course, doesn’t see anything wrong with it. Of course, for the moment, there is nothing wrong with it – the book could be anything and it wouldn’t mean anything to my tyke – but one day she will be able to understand and I absolutely object to her having her head filled with that drivel before she can make any judgement. Perhaps I should buy “A Children’s Koran” and a collection of Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Babylonian, Egyptian and any other myths I can get my hands on to put on the shelf right next to this and the Andersen and the Dr. Seuss. On the other hand, I could just take the book and say that I do not wish my tyke to be exposed to religious materials till she is in a position to have a critical attitude to them. I have no idea what I will do but, as I have grown accustomed to expect, no solution seems altogether happy or natural to me as whatever I do will be seen as unreasonable and grandstanding. Certainly, it seems to me that there are people in my daughter’s family who are not playing fair. I mean, what would they think if I bought her “A little atheist reader” for her first birthday – the idea is preposterous!

My little tyke is turning one in a couple of weeks and I fear what time will bring.


At 24/9/05 10:39 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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