Friday, 25 November 2016

Children Stories - fears and freedom!

This article was first published at Feministaa


How much can books make or break lives, I often wonder. 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 cane do to our children, when we say them?


As children, 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 They came from the stories that we grew up with, and chose to love. Through our love for books, we gave them a 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 heart when I arrived at cross-roads, 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.




I am aware of the immense power of choice that works when it comes to the stories you hear, read, 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 of 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. And 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.



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? Here! 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 spoil sport, 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. Or Belle.And then? Of course! …They will first dance at the Ball, and then get married. And of course, who can ever even doubt that they would live happily ever after?



Really?



Wait. Hold. We cannot be oblivious anymore, can we? Please open your eyes to the traps before it is late. 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 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 choose. Filter. Tell them stories but not these. I beg of you!Parents might wonder, “But didn’t we read them as kids? Have we grown up any wrongly? Oh, nostalgia!! Ah, those days…”



I know. I share that feeling, too. But then, dare to stop and think for once, won’t you? So what shall we read them - you might ask?



Well! 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? I am sure you can think of some more, too. 
And then there’s the whole bunch of Dr. Seuss, of course!



Tell them anything, 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, yes. In you, and in her.




And one day, who knows! Even the world may start believing in her, too!