So grim grows the laurel

Snuggling up to a book.

The Maiden’s always had a mild taste for the macabre. Now part of this is our fault. Dinner topics frequently revolve around the weird–perhaps motivated by the Maiden’s digestive system posters on the dining room wall–and we have spent many enjoyable hours making up zombie versions of Christmas carols, kids’ songs, and fairy tales.

But it’s not all us. The Maiden has, er, unique interests. She wants to be a surgeon. It used to be a brain surgeon–hence the magazine photo of a brain on her bulletin board–but after seeing the disturbing Bodies Revealed exhibit and loving every minute of it, she decided she’s more interested in hearts and blood.

Also, she likes Ancient Egypt. And mummies. And tombs with curses. And forensic archaeology. And World War II. And Greek mythology.

You get the picture.

Before, these interests were just interests–things she’d read about, things she’d tell us about. Acting them out was a little more abstract, although she did practice plenty of unlicensed medicine with disturbingly poor attention to hygiene, procedure, or bedside manner.

Now that she’s reading novels, though, her imagination has been newly sparked. Unfortunately, it’s sparked in a somewhat grim direction.

Today she played pawn shop. I was the pawn shop owner and she sold her jewelry to me to buy craft items to keep her two foster daughters happy because they were so sad. Why were they sad? Well, you see, their mother had been killed in a bombing raid and their father had been killed in the fighting. When she found them, they were sitting sadly on the edge of the crater that had once been their home, and looking for their mother. She took them back to her orphanage and was showering them with love and affection until they were adopted permanently.

That was probably an improvement on Sunday’s game, during which she came creeping over to me in full princess attire. We had to be very careful, she whispered. The evil guards had taken over the castle, murdered her father (and my husband), stolen all our possessions, and were secretly trying to poison us in order to steal the crown.

This child officially needs lighter bedtime reading material.

But the thing is, some of this stuff really did happen to kids. Tragically, some of it does today. Kids lost their parents to war in the 1940s–like in the books she read–and it happens now, even in modern-day America. Kids deal with poison and murder and intra-family betrayal every day, even if they’re not famous like Cleopatra. Kids don’t have enough to eat. Kids are abused.

On the other hand, isn’t there plenty of time for her to find out about the less sunshiny side of life? Shouldn’t I filter out the gritty stuff and start steering her toward unicorns and butterflies instead?

Actually, no.

The Maiden is attracted to realism, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Well-written fiction can be a wonderful way to gently create awareness that we don’t live in the middle of a fairy tale–and, because the darker side of literature shouldn’t be traveled alone, to provide a springboard for lots of parent-child discussions about thoughts and feelings and reality.

If well done, fiction can lift us above the trials of life; in a way, it’s a kinder, gentler way to navigate the ugly side of humanity than allowing the negativity of reported media to wash over us. After all, it’s only by pondering an imaginary reality that we can better learn to understand and appreciate our own.


18 responses to “So grim grows the laurel

  1. Your maiden is fascinating and unique. Unique should never be unicorned away.

    • thetwistingkaleidoscope

      You said it! Love that expression (and I might need to make it my mantra for days when she’s a bit too, well, unique :)).

  2. What an excellent treatment of a topic that should definitely factor into parenting. I’ve thought about this same kind of thing from time to time.

    We shy away from taking kids to funerals for fear that they might be somehow “damaged” by it. Um, OK. But it’s OK to simulate killing zombies and aliens..See my point? Why is it OK to fake death but not to expose our children to culturally acceptable ways to express grief?

    Bring on the realism.

    • thetwistingkaleidoscope

      That’s a good point. I think it’s our own fear of death that makes us nervous about bringing kids to funerals, but little ones just don’t have the hangups we grown-ups do. My grandmother passed away when the Maiden was three, and I was worried about how she would handle the wake and funeral. But she was just fine: asked a lot of curious questions, but that’s the way it should be!

  3. The Brother’s Grimm didn’t come up with that stuff for nothing. There needs to be dark to be light. My kids have a little macabre fascination too. Good for the Maiden!

    • thetwistingkaleidoscope

      Yeah, the original Grimm stories are pretty, well, grim! I like what you said about there needing to be dark in order to have light. Maybe people of another time understood the reality of life a bit better than we do now . . .

  4. Let her natural tendencies be your guide. As long as there’s some balance in her world, let it be. That’s how you find out what her REAL interests are. 🙂

    • thetwistingkaleidoscope

      That’s true! She’s always amazed us with the unexpected (sometimes horrified us . . . but we love her anyways :)).

  5. Grass Oil by Molly Field

    My three boys all have had on/off fascinations with the macabre. It’s natural: seek to understand what we fear so we can take the reins and control what we can while knowing there lies a depth and evil we can’t. She can shut this off when she chooses. And then when she hears of it happening in reality she can treat it in a way that keeps here relative to it. Sheltering our kids does nothing for them. (Not advocating dropping them off in Darfur, but fighting their battles for them demanding “fairness” is folly. Life is not fair. Ever.) The Maiden sounds like an actively imaginative child: good job, Mom!

    • thetwistingkaleidoscope

      Thanks for the kudos. I agree that sheltering kids from “unfairness” is pretty artificial; it really does them no favors, does it? We put a higher stock in “happiness” than we do in “contentment”–but that risks raising a generation of young adults who can’t cope when life doesn’t go smoothly.

  6. i love this , you should be applauded as should your daughter. It is only the brave who have the courage to follow their hearts and minds to what interests them.

  7. This is why I like you so much. You respect children for being children without forgetting they are humans who can’t/shouldn’t be protected from the beautiful intricacies of life. Balance. Yin Yang. You’ve got a smart girl on your hands.

    • thetwistingkaleidoscope

      Awww, thanks. We try with the balance, we really do. I have so much trouble with balance myself that sometimes it feels like I’m not a very good person to teach it . . . but maybe she and I can teach each other and learn together 🙂

  8. Running from Hell with El

    Yes yes yes!!! Bravo mama!! And I completely agree that fiction can take a hard look at the tough realities we face and how we rise above that provides the beauty that rises from the devastation–yes? LOVE this post, and I adore your daughter. She’s get along with my little girl so well!

  9. I love this! Sounds like your Maiden is as creative in interesting as my Princess and Birdie are. 🙂

    I found you on the TGIF hop, and I am really glad I did!

  10. BPM said it best. It sounds like your house is creative and wonderful.

  11. I wanna play pawn shop! Popped in on your blog from the blog hop … give me a visit some time ~

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