Were nursery rhymes always this scary and/or depressing? Now that my son is of an age where he likes them, I find myself reading more rhymes and wondering when they got so creepy, weird and sad. And in some cases, even a bit cruel and rude!
Sample this –
Georgie Porgie pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away!
I know it’s just a nursery rhyme and I shouldn’t read between the lines, etc. but I’m really confused on what I’m supposed to teach him through this rhyme. If this weren’t a nursery rhyme, it would probably be some girl’s painful account of being harassed! You might ask me why does it always have to be teaching him something; why can’t he just read it for fun and forget about it? Well, children these days are not like that. My son is noticing and learning things even when I’m not consciously teaching him. He correlates and comes up with his own interpretations far too often. So it becomes my duty to ensure he gets the right meaning before he figures it out on his own.
And what is with all the violence (minor, but still!) in rhymes?!
Check out this one –
It’s raining, it’s pouring,
The old man is snoring.
He went to bed
And bumped his head
And couldn’t get up in the morning!
Or this –
Goosey goosey gander, where do you wander,
Upstairs and downstairs in my ladies chamber.
There I met an old man, who wouldn’t say his prayers
I took him by his left leg and threw him down the stairs!
What do we have against these poor old men that we get so much pleasure in seeing them hurt?! And did we ever wonder if Jack and Jill were in pain, when we happily sang about them falling down the hill?
And here’s one I read recently, which left me totally confused and lost –
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread
And she whipped them all soundly and put them to bed!
What the heck?!
I know that most nursery rhymes came out of a parody of historical or political events and were usually in jest of the people involved. But when it’s for children, I’d much rather read something fun and magical, like this one –
Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport.
And the dish ran away with the spoon!
This one also is probably based on some event in the past, but hey, it’s a fun read, with cows jumping over moons and the cat playing the fiddle. My son loves the part about the spoon. He likes this one too:
The owl and the pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat.
They took some honey and plenty of money
Wrapper in a five pound note.
And thankfully, popular ones like Twinkle Twinkle and Baa Baa Black sheep, Mary had a little lamb, Little Bo Peep, etc. are still ok.
Given how hyper-aware and paranoid parents these days are, the day is not far when nursery rhymes will also have G, PG, R and A ratings!
So what’s the most freaky/scary/confusing rhyme you’ve ever read? And if you’re a parent, how do you deal with inappropriate content in the reading that’s still meant for children?