10 December 2010

Thoughts on Parenting

I just finished a great new children's book called A Tale Dark & Grimm by new author Adam Gidwitz. It's a take on the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, told in narrative by the characters of Hansel and Gretel. I have to say that it really made me think about being a parent and the great responsibility that comes with all of it. (I know I've been super sentimental lately because of the whole being 8+ months pregnant - just bear with me though.)

The way this tale is woven, Hansel and Gretel run away because of a terrible thing their parents do to them. The action is something the children don't understand (and their parents think they are not old enough to be capable of understanding). They run away from home in search of new parents who would never harm them ever again. Along the way, they experience terrible (and quite bloody and gory) adventures: a woman who tries to cook them, an evil warlock, parents who turn their kids into ravens, being sold to the devil, and other such crazy Grimm stories. They grow wiser and closer to each other throughout the whole novel. I don't want to give anything away, seeing as how this is a story I'd love for you to pick up and digest yourself, but I would like to share a portion of the book that particularly struck me... I hope it fascinates you into getting a copy of this book and enjoying it like I did.

The scene this comes from is toward the end of the novel, when Hansel and Gretel are returning home. The author does this great Lemony Snicket-ish technique where he inserts asides for the reader in bold text, so you know that he is temporarily leaving the story to address you. This is taken from one of those addresses.

It will happen to you, Dear Reader, at some point in your life. You will face a moment very much like the one Hansel and Gretel are facing right now.

In this moment, you will look at your parents and realize that - no matter what it sounds like they are saying - they are actually asking you for forgiveness. This is a very painful moment. You see, all of your life you've been asking for forgiveness from them. From the age you can talk you are apologizing for breaking this, forgetting that, hitting him, locking her in the garage, and so on. So having them ask you for forgiveness probably sounds pretty good.

But when this moment comes, you will probably be in a lot of pain. And you probably will not want to forgive them.

In which case, what, you might ask, should you do?

Well, you could yell at them, and tell them about all the ways they've hurt you. This is a good thing to do once, because - believe me - they need to know. But this is the first step on the road to forgiveness. What if you're not even ready for that?

You could pretend to forgive them. This I would not recommend. It's sort of like sweeping broken glass under the carpet; the floor still isn't clean, and somebody's going to end p with a bloody sock.

Finally, if you don't want to forgive them, and you don't want to fake it, you can always go with ole reliable: Changing the subject. (A Tale Dark & Grimm, p. 172-173)
Wow. (I know that was longish, but worth reading right?) This passage reminds me of all the mistakes I've already made as a parent. Those days when I get frustrated and yell at my son, the days when I feel to tired to deal with him and just let him watch like 5 episodes of Handy Manny, the days when I overreact to Oz just being a two-year old... And how hard it is going to be for both me and my (future) kiddos whenever that day comes when I have to apologize to them. Ouch. As parents, we strive to do right by our kids and teach them how to grow up to make good choices, but what happens when we don't make good choices? And knowing that your little ones are looking to you and absorbing what you do all the time makes me just a tiny bit queasy.

Anyway, this was a great read. I love the children's books that have so many layers that anyone reading it can get some sort of inspiration/ message out of them. This one is choc full of layers and symbolism. And I'm excited to get to meet this author! My 4th grade book group kids are getting the opportunity to have him speak at our book group meeting in January. I'm sure I'll have more questions for him that they will...


Angela said...

Oh no! I am in serious trouble if letting them watch 5 of their shows in a row means I'm not a good parent ;0)

Seriously, though I know it's from afar, but sounds like you are doign a FAB job to me. We all have bad days/weeks.

Christie said...

wonderful post! I'll definitely put that book on my reading list. You are an amazing parent (and so is Tim). It's such a fun thing to watch two people you love become parents and see the unique way they do things with their family. I can't wait to see you guys with two boys running around. Let the fun begin! And Jeremy is still super excited about that RV trip! ;) love you!

Christie said...

hey chick! what's on your current wishlist?

teri the big red dog said...

sharing this with MY librarian husband. i am sure we will own it soon. thanks!

Jill said...

Definitely going on the reading list. I think about what you're talking about all the time. When John was a baby I used to worry that if something happened to me, no one could be as good of a parent to him as I. Ha! Now I think if I drove him to the woods and left him for a pack of coyotes they might do just as well - or better!

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