From teaching students to handling meat deliveries.. Madhu Chebolu was teaching kids in schools when…Read More →
How much can books make or break lives, I often ask myself. What role do they play in shaping up who you are? Well if you ask me, I’d say – quite a lot.
And yet, do we realize the power of printed words? Do we realize our restrictions with them, and our responsibilities? Do we realize what the bedtime stories can do to our children, when we say them?
As a child, we had a dedicated entry in our school time table by the name of Moral Science. But frankly, we studied them to answer exams. We studied them to complete our home tasks. The real lessons from printed words, the real power, came from the inconspicuous. It came from the stories that we grew up with, and chose to love. Through our love for books, we gave them the power to decide for us what was right and what was wrong. So much so that till this day, I always maintain that story, or literature so to say, can make or break you.
What you read is key to what you think or what you become.
There are characters I have grown up to fall in love with from printed pages, and went to seeking and hunting out from the crowd of real people in the real world. There are characters I have resonated with, cried for, and wanted to become into. In matters of the heart when I arrived at crossroads, I have often let my decisions follow the route of what-would-she-do-if-it-was-she. I have let my life become a story as much as I have let the stories become my life.
And as I look back to those years from here where I stand, the parent in me feels deeply responsible for the choice of stories, books, ideas and impressions that I may offer to my offspring in order to do her good, and to do her justice.
I am aware of the immense power of choice that works when it comes to the stories you hear, read, and idolize. I am aware of the ideals they would hold out to her, and the examples that she’d choose her actions from. I am concerned about my choices here. I feel responsible and powerful at the same time. I want to show her the rights ways through the right constellation of words and stories, as much as may be in my hands.
However, here is what happens. As much as I may want to believe my power and assume my role, my child seems to have a mind much of her own, resistant and in denial of parental manipulation.
And she takes on to… hold your breath, the Disney!
Now, what is my problem with Disney, you ask? My problem with Disney is rather simple, actually; as simple as their own storylines. Storylines in which there will be an evil step mom or a witch, and a non-functioning father who’s only a victim to the new wife’s new whims. There will be conspiracy, one of two, and a few save by chances.
There will be a typical damsel in distress princess who’ll be in danger, and there will be a prince charming on horseback who’ll save and protect, and then there will be a happily ever after.
Call me a spoilsport, a cynic, or evil. Call me the wicked witch, even. But for Disney’s sake, please do keep reading on…
For then the prince would come, to kill the evil and save the helpless damsel in distress. On a white horse, in shining gold armour and a halo of charm around the head. He will come, he will save, and he will take her away. Cinderella, or Snow-white or Rapunzel. And then..? Of course! They will first dance at the Ball, and then get married. And of course, whichever doubt that they would live happily ever after?
Wait. Hold. We cannot be oblivious anymore, can we?
Help your daughter – this once. Don’t read to them stories, of what they should not become.
Instead, why not help her believe that it is alright to find a charming prince, but she doesn’t always need a prince to save her from danger, and that she can be brave and save herself too? Help her believe, to have a good life partner is indeed a pretty nice thing, but that is not the only way to be happy in life?
Tell her the right stories. Select and filter. Tell them stories but not these. Parents might wonder, “But didn’t we read them as kids? Have we grown up any wrongly? Oh, nostalgia! Ah, those days…”
I share that feeling, too. But then, dare to stop and think for once, won’t you? So what shall we read, you might ask.
On a personal note, my five-year-old doesn’t eat food or go to sleep without a story ever. And I have almost never repeated any of them till date. So, trust me when I say this I assure you. There are plenty gender neutral story books available.
If you look around you, there are more gender neutral stories than you may guess. What you can do is, pick up animal stories as you find them, or make them.
I’ll name a few – The Ugly duckling, The Three Pigs, The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse! Billy Goats Gruff. And so on.
There are few fairytale stories too. Why, remember Goldilocks, the little girl who ate the baby bear’s pudding and went off to sleep in its bed? Remember Gretel, that younger sister, who saved her brother Hansel from the witch and then they came back to the father? Alice in Wonderland, Little Red Riding Hood? And then there’s the whole bunch of Dr. Seuss, of course!
Tell them anything, or make your own stories, even. Make her brave in it, and strong. Make her confident and independent.
Don’t ask her to wait for a prince in your story. Instead, send her off to save a few poor souls. Make her believe that she can!
Make her believe, in you, and in her. And one day, who knows! Even the world may start believing in her, too!