17 July 2008

A kinder, gentler world

You know those brightly colored books with buttons that, when pushed, produce tinny, ever-so-slightly-off-key versions of nursery “classics”? The ones that you never buy for your own children and you’re always hiding but somehow the kids always find them? The ones that drive you totally nuts but you can’t get rid of them because they’re from someone who will notice if they’re gone?

One such book in our possession offers more humane lyrics to the tune of “Three Blind Mice”:

Three orange cats,
See how they run.
They’re small and furry and rather nice
They’re even kind to the little mice.

Now, I don’t really have a problem with this sort of revisionist history, though it does present a rather inaccurate view of reality. I have enough other things to explain in this cruel, cruel world without adding the violent farmer’s wife to the list.

But there’s another popular revision out there that bugs me. Since we live in a parsonage, we receive approximately a dozen of those stuffed animals that recite “Now I lay me down to sleep” every time we have a baby.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And angels watch me through the night,
Until I wake to morning light.

Sure, angels watch over us, and that may be reassuring for kids. But kids can handle the older version, If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Do we want to raise stalwart Christian soldiers or spiritual softies? Our four-year-old already understands Heaven and Hell. He will tell you that there are lots of false gods out there that will take you to Hell (his own synthesized version of our ongoing catechesis). He knows that people die because of sin, which is sad, but that people who believe in Jesus will be raised to live on the New Earth, and he’s looking forward to that. In fact, he sometimes uses the paraousia as a frame of reference, as in, “Will we do that before Jesus comes back?” We should all be so eschatologically minded.

Keeping it real: the prayer was altered more for overly-delicate adult sensibilities than for the sake of children, who are remarkably practical-minded about such things. And that’s a shame. So, for that matter, is the annoying, lisping little voice that the manufacturers chose to recite the prayer.

Anyone have other examples of how we squeamish adults alter things because we shy away from subjects that children face matter-of-factly?


Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Similar comments at NR. :)

Nowadays, my kids demand Compline. Who am I to take that away from them. :)

Rebekah said...

You picked the right week to get me ranting on this question. We're almost done with VBS, and the three boring old hymns I picked out have given me opportunity to talk with the kids about the real presence, Baptism, heaven meeting earth in the Divine Service, and a bunch of other stuff that should, according to conventional wisdom, go over their heads. They've learned how to make the sign of the cross (hey, if songs have to have actions . . . :D ) and have done some art appreciation and vocab along the way. And I'm just the music person! Someone please tell me why VBS should be about rhinos and spaceships when that's what they go home and watch on TV the rest of the day? I've still got rhino and spaceship songs cluttering my brain after one week of singing them 20+ years ago. I hope the kids who have been through our place this week will come away with something more meaningful. Oh, and by the way, it's been fun.

More to the point of your post, though, I've been thinking that for kids who aren't in church (or our church) regularly, this must all sound pretty bloody and violent. One art project was making a little Agnus Dei for a banner, and the last step of the project was painting drops of blood on the lamb. I couldn't help wondering if parents were going to be disgusted or horrified that this is what we had their kids do at VBS when Baptists down the street had them Ridin' the Rad Rapids With Jesus or whatever last week.

Sue Bee said...

Body parts. Little kids have no trouble learning the proper anatomical terms. It is parents who insist on teaching pee-pee and wee-wee.

Reb. Mary said...

Good examples, all!

Gauntlets said...

The Crucifix. A cute pink cross with yellow swirlies? No. I don't think that will do at all.