Grocery store trips with my five and three year old in tow are always eventful. On the good days there’s a lot of “I want!” and “No, really, I NEED!” and usually a running lecture on the difference between the two. But last week when the store happened to be packed in preparation for a football game I’d forgotten about, and I needed to run in for one thing, something magical happened. Both boys held my hand while I wound them through isles and they didn’t complain, or even ask if their good behavior warranted a treat!
As all mothers before me, by the time we got to the long check out line I was waiting for the bottom to fall out of their good behavior. Certainly twenty minutes of near silence would have to be paid for, right? Someone would have a temper tantrum all of the sudden because I wouldn’t let them chew gum, even though they’ve never chewed gum!
I was ready for it.
I was prepared to handle it with some amount of grace and probably a lot of pleading.
But nothing happened.
The line went fast and I was too busy making funny faces at my three year old to hear the conversation going on in front of us, or even notice the two women in their mid twenties, but my five year old wasn’t.
We were almost home free, when pointing ahead he shouted up at me, “That’s awful! Mama, that lady had a BAD date!”
I didn’t know what was happening, but I scrambled to stop it as the women turned around and faced me with blank expressions.
I laughed, as you do when there’s nothing else to do, and apologized and told my five year old that it wasn’t nice to eavesdrop.
“But Mama, she said her date was like a fairy tale!” Then he looked at one of the women and asked, “Did he tie your hair together with two other women and leave you to starve?”
Both of their mouths opened while I explained that we’d just read the Fairy Tale about Jack The Giant Killer, and that he thought that by her saying her date was like a fairy tale she meant it was bad.
The one who’d had the date said, “Well you should probably stick to Disney.” Then they both turned around and I got a confirmation that the only kind of adult women who say things like, “My date was like a fairy tale.” are douchebags.
I fought an internal struggle, and wanted so badly to tap her on the shoulder and tell her why I don’t read my kids Disney-like fairy tales.
You’ll be happy to know that I did not.
I understand that many people intentionally want to shelter their kids from scary stories and giants who bash people’s heads in. It’s much nicer to pretend that all stories end with happily ever after and that good always triumphs over evil.
I wish the world was full of faeries that sparkle pink and purple.
But it isn’t.
I remember reading somewhere once that the reason parents used to tell their children fairy stories we now call dark and violent was because the world was so dangerous and they didn’t want to send them out into it ill prepared, with the idea that nothing bad would ever happen to them because in their little corner they were cherished.
Right now my children’s world consists of early morning cuddles, and books, and hikes in the snow, but as much as I try, I cannot keep them forever. I feel like I would be doing them a disservice to coat their world in sugar and tell them that nothing will ever change. I would rather read them stories wrapped in shadow while we sit in our pajamas, under a blanket on the couch. I’d rather be the one to tell them that sometimes there are monsters, and sometimes the good guys lose, but sometimes, with courage and goodness, and perseverance, the good guys win.
I hope that my children will never have a need to dig deep and draw from some almost forgotten place, but as they grow into men, it’s likely that they will, and as they struggle many years from now against beasts fierce and indestructible they may remember the ridiculous little stories read to them during their days of ease, and they may take heart, or they may laugh and remember that once in a grocery store their mother nearly got her ass kicked because she refused to read them fairy tales that sparkled.