This is going to be a odd ramble since I recently wrote that “Sheltering” post, but perhaps it acknowledges some of the issues of Sheltering’s opponents.
I’m hoping someone will converse with me over the latest story I posted. I picked “The Snake’s Savior” to start this conversation because of the reaction of some boys when I told it once. There were several variations on,
“I would have saved him until he was almost warm, then tossed him away from me reallyquick!”
And I began to wonder if we (our culture’s) storytellers, in our admirable efforts to teach our children to be accepting of many different peoples, we are somehow teaching them to be “as innocent as doves” and leaving out the “wise as serpents” part.
So this enlightened generation automatically assumes the best of anyone who acts sincere, but what happens when these poor, molded children (heaven forbid!) meet real evil?
Call me cold and unfeeling, but I believe there are times when people simply are evil.
I am one who believes there are enough people that overcome (say) rejection and isolation without (say) shooting up a classroom, that those who act that way shouldn’t be excused or their evil be explained away because of the way they were treated.
Those who pretend it’s possible (or even necessary) are reversing the already faulty “the end justifies the means” to say “the means justify the end.”
It doesn’t become more right when turned on it’s head.
My quote on the side bar (about dragons and witches— and yes, it was inspired by a similar but different quote of Chesterton’s) is what made me first think about this problem.
I’ve come across very few stories about scary dragons or evil witches.
The majority of stories I see describe how misunderstood are peaceful dinosaurs and old women.
These tellings, sometimes creative to one such as I who understands the thwarted expectation element, mean nothing to my children’s generation who only hear the same story over and over again about nice people who aren’t liked, just because they are different.
To a certain extent, I want to teach my children to be afraid (stick with me here).
I want my kid to be mistrustful of strangers, if I’m not around. I don’t want any child to suppress that sick-feeling in his/her gut when s/he’s faced with an uncomfortable situation.
God could be using their intuition to warn them of danger. And if I’ve spent all their story-times telling them that even folks who look wrong, whose presence makes them uncomfortable, are kind, loving, and only want the best for them…
Well, lets just say my mama-heart quails.
My mother has told me many times that I just scared her to pieces because I didn’t have any of these natural inhibitions.
A guy who was eventually one of my Caravan troop leaders (so he turned out to be a fine man, though we didn’t know anything about him at first) came to our church as a lonely bachelor in a type of work that kept him frequently isolated.
I don’t remember this at all, but I heard him tell the story several times about how his first Sunday with us he was dying for human contact, but still stiff, too, from his latest stretch of isolation. My little blond 5-year-old self came trotting down the aisle and climbed into his lap.
I think of stories like that, imagine seeing it recreated with my comparatively timid 5-year-old, and I am thankful she still clings to my hand while scanning each new environment.
Our culture’s high value and emphasis on children needing to early “be able to differentiate” from their parents is really more out of our desire for personal freedom than any benefit for the young children.
But I digress.
I recently found two stories with “real” witches, and after reading them I had to change my view again about fairy tales being for children.
While I still believe that many troublesome images in tales will either go over the young child’s head, or may be modified simply to make them age-appropriate, I now think that moving from dragons to witches actually needs to wait until that next stage of maturity (7-9) that I’m holding off a number of the Disney movies for.
This is heavy and worth thought because we are moving from the generic understanding that “evil exists and brave people must face it” (a la Saint George and the Dragon), to the more personal and threatening “evil exists in human form, and sometimes children must face it” (a la Hansel and Gretel).
In the same way I’m saving bits of the Psalms, I’m realizing I need to save these particular tales.
~ ~ ~
But to circle back to the snake, I must ask, has anyone heard an answer to this? Can one teach her children to be both open-hearted and careful?
Is there any way to help them avoid the uncomfortable (or dangerous) results of trial and error?