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?
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.