Childhood is a brief and sacred time, and sometimes parents skip over how important it is for kids to be kids. We tap our foot waiting for Father Time to speed up the process, because when they’re little, they can be exhausting! We’re almost always expecting relief in the next phase of their maturity rather than appreciating their current stage.
But maybe we make this time overly tiresome ourselves because we have lost our awe and wonder about the world they are discovering.
There are things that we can do as parents to regain our own awe and wonder over the world that God made and called “good”. Albert Einstein said, “‘If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Fairy tales are remarkably beneficial for your children and they can be for you too! Besides the amazing benefits of reading aloud to your children, being close to them, and exploring new ideas in a book. Their morals and simplicity could soften a heart that has become guarded like The Selfish Giant.
In their origin these stories were meant to entertain adults and were told orally to listeners who couldn’t read and write. It might be hard to imagine but listening to these stories is like our equivalent of going to a concert. They were big deal entertainment. The stories also share strong moral lessons, which (let’s be honest) we could all use a refresher course in sometimes. And last but not least, fairy tales provide a long list of qualities that have basis in scripture that lay a healthy foundation for our children and ourselves.
Please don’t assume I am over exaggerating. My family has experienced numerous occasions where our discussions of a fairy tale we’d just read brought us to the Bible. As a family we looked up scriptures or a parallel bible story that mirrored the fairy tale.
There can be fantastic beasts or creatures, the struggle of good vs. evil, forgiveness, heroes, villains, selfless love, and so much more. The list of what a fairy tale can provide starts to look a lot like what the Bible offers us. We often forget the daring feats and wild wonders of our God.
The story of Little Red Riding Hood reminds us to “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Matthew 5:17 NIV. Not only does Red point our children to excellent wisdom from Jesus, but she also opens a door of conversation with our kids.
“Kiddos, check this out! Red Riding Hood told us the same thing that Jesus teaches us in the bible! Although we should be kind to everyone, not everyone we meet is going to be kind to us. And we have to be careful not to trust just anyone who might mean to do us harm.”
If we want our children to be excited about the bible, then our conversations need to be filled with excitement. Those exclamation marks above are purposeful. They remind us how our voice should be filled with awe and wonder too. We need to fill ourselves with childlike wonder in order for our kids to be over the moon for Jesus. Just as their awe and wonder can help us regain our lost excitement, it can also help them include Jesus in their joy.
I highly recommend reading The Wild Swan. Our family loves this story where a princess is banished from her father’s kingdom along with her seven older brothers. Her brothers had been cursed into swans, and she prayed to find a way to reverse their curse. The princess is told that she has to make shirts out of stinging nettles and once she starts, she cannot speak until she has finished all seven shirts. So dedicated is she to saving her brothers, even when faced with false accusations and possible death, she does not stop working. When you read this fairy tale I believe that you’ll find an simple parallel to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. In no way am I suggesting that the two stories are equal, but how to do you explain the greatest act of love without providing our children stories on their level that explain selfless sacrifice?
Fairy tale characters from the original stories are relatable to us mere mortals, because they too are almost always average people fighting for what they believe in. David was just a shepherd. Rapunzel, whose tears restored her true love’s eyesight, was just a girl. The apostle Paul was just a man. The girl from Diamonds and Toads was just kind to an old woman at the well. All these people were amazing, whether fictional or not. And, unlike modern cartoon and film versions of the stories, they didn’t break into song and dance to find their joy
I don’t know about your kids, but my kids live in a very black and white world. There is generally only right or wrong. Happy or sad. Generous or greedy. They are still simplistic, and my heart breaks a little every time I have to explain “how the world works” and muddy their black and white to a messy grey.I believe that as the adult reading the fairy tale you’ll find a black and white world that might help you reorganize the grey in your life. In such a confusing and broken world, grey can become our only color on the palette of life.
When you open up a fairy tale, you’ll find simplicity that your children can enjoy. Simplicity is normally the last thing we chose to help us, but in hindsight, it’s almost always the thing we wish we had chosen first. When you snuggle down with your kids and read The Selfish Giant you’ll get to have a conversation about intentions of the heart. It appears simple just like accepting the free gift of salvation appears simple, but in each case it is just the tip of the iceberg. There is more for the taking, enjoying, and reaping of benefits below the surface.
This summer, instead of popping the contemporary film version of a fairy tale into your DVD player, read the original story.We shouldn’t accept the status quo of current fairy tale modifications as the end all. The originals are far richer in adventure, love, and kindness. I don’t think it needs to be said, but just in case, our kids need (even crave) our attention-not passive entertainment.
Be brave dear parents and chose simplicity. We tend to over complicate life, but childhood should be simple. Their time as wee ones is fleeting. In the blink of an eye you’ll be walking someone down the aisle or you’ll be renamed “grandma” or “grandpa”. We can be brave like a fairy tale hero by saying ‘no’ to passive entertainment and instead find joy in spending as much quality time with our children as possible.
“I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.” Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop