My daughter is three and she loves having stories read to her and I love reading them. That being said, there are some books that are just down right creepy. Is this really what we are teaching our kids?
Two books spring to mind that I’ll never read to my kids…
|Love You Forever|
by Robert N. Munsch, Sheila McGraw
This starts off kind of cute. The mother has a child in her arms and she tells him, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” As an expression of a parent’s unconditional love it’s a great little saying from a mother to her son. And then you turn the pages, the kid gets older, and the you see the mom sneaking into the teenage son’s bedroom and repeating the mantra. It seems a little Oedipus, as I’d not really like to think about my mom sneaking into my room when I was a teenager but ok, still kind of cute.
Then the son gets married and moves away. Happy ending? Not exactly. Now the mother straps a ladder to her car, drives across town, and breaks into the son’s house, sneaks into his bedroom and while he’s sleeping with his wife next to him tells him “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” Ok, having seen Psycho, I have to say I’m a bit disturbed. This continues through the son’s life, until the mother is dying, and the son repeats her mantra back to her.
The last page in the book shows the son, cradling his newborn, repeating his mother’s mantra to the baby, and the cycle repeats. If this were a movie, I would have expected the creepy horror music to well up, have the son look into the camera and start an evil cackle as the picture faded to black.
|The Giving Tree|
by Shel Silverstein
There are many stories out there about unconditional love that doesn’t involve a life long cycle of abuse and abandonment. This story describes an unhealthy relationship between a boy and a tree. The term “co-dependent” comes to mind. Is my child supposed to identify with the tree that is treated like a doormat it’s entire life or the narcissistic child who takes and takes? Is this a social commentary on the giving nature of females (the tree is female) or the ruthless and thoughtless destruction by males in today’s world?
I would not want my daughter to model herself after the tree, giving and giving in a destructive cycle, giving so much of herself in order to please others until there is nothing left and never receiving anything in return. I’d hate to think I taught her to be a doormat, or that I’d given her the impression that it’s ok to be in a destructive relationship because “he says he loves me”. If this were a marriage, I can just imagine the wife saying “I know he beats me, sleeps with other women, and drinks a lot, but it’s ok because he still comes home to me on the weekends.”
If I had a son, I would not want him to think that he can destroy the one that loves him to get what he wants. He does not even consider that his actions are destroying the tree until there is nothing left but a stump. Am I teaching that it is ok to take and never give back? To not think about the feelings of others?
There are better ways of teaching a child about love, giving and compassion than this book. I want more for my children and their relationships than that. Denying them any of their wants or expecting them to make their own way in the world doesn’t mean that I don’t love them unconditionally.
This post had me in stitches. I am a part time house wife and part time adult and child shrink.
As a shrink, the first book you mentioned sounded like a great way to teach my students about those who lack boundaries. It would also be helpful in teaching them about the need for separation individuation in development. I am tempted to buy it for a teaching tool and just for plain ol curiosity value.
As for the Giving Tree, thank you so much! Most folks I know remember it with fondness, but I have been creeped out by that book since I read it as a kid. Parental sacrifice is one thing, masochism is quite another.