Babar, Celeste, Cannibals, and Death

The Censor Mommy Strikes.

I have a beef with Babar. Specifically Jean de Brunhoff’s, “The Story of Babar, The Little Elephant,” and later, “The Travels of Babar.” In the former, this page raised some concerns:

[Insert photo of the elephant king turning green and looking all sick & wrinkly. I had an actual image of this before, but just read something about a blogger getting sued for copyright issues. Copyright paranoia, c’est moi.]

The next lines of text say, “It poisoned him and he became ill, so ill that he died. This was a great calamity.”

When he’s “sick,” the elephant king turns green, and then Babar shows up on the next page, wearing a green jacket, so Z thinks the king comes back to life again. She’s had some questions about it, and it’s been a little difficult for us to decide what to tell her without freaking her out too much. It’s a teaching moment, we recognize that. But how much to teach?

One of her questions was, “If I die, will I be alive again?” (like the elephant king, I think) and we said, yes, she’ll be alive with God. She asked if it hurt, and we said that God would take care of her. Those are both things that we believe, and we kind of glossed over the hurting bit, because she’s already worried enough about every little scrape and fever. And remember, she just turned three.

I think we did the right thing, not going into too much detail, but answering calmly. I just think she’s a little young to be thinking about death, that’s all. Maybe I’m not right about this, but it’s how I feel.

Then we took that Babar book and put it away! It’ll come out later. I don’t know when. Like so many things with this parenting gig, we’re wingin’ it.

Another book on the Censor Shelf is “The Travels of Babar.”  Some “fierce and savage cannibals” tie up Celeste and hope to eat her. They’re depicted as dark-skinned men wearing little grass skirts, and as I have yet to see a positive depiction of dark-skinned people in any of the Babar books, this story will also wait until Z is old enough for us to discuss how people talk about and write about people of other races.

[Insert photo of dark people in grass skirts, holding spears, dancing around the tied-up elephant royalty. See above re: copyright paranoia.]

I loved Babar when I was a little kid, and I still love Babar. Luckily for Z, Husband’s Babar collection is at least ten books strong, so the disappearance of two or three books will by no means give her a Babar-less life.

If you have kids, are there any books you put away to read and discuss when they’re older?

Our Busy Busy Calendar

I have been…blessed with an inquisitive child. At times this feels less like a blessing and more like a curse. Like when I’ve heard, “Why,” for the three hundred fifty-second time over the course of one morning. Sidenote: It isn’t even like she wants an answer. I mean, she does, but she doesn’t even ask it like it’s a question. Here’s an example:

Ever-Suffering Mother: Hey, Z, let’s get you dressed for music class!
Z: Why.
ESM: Because even though I’ve let you wear your jim-jams all day long, and in fact, I am still in my jim-jams myself, it is four p.m. and probably time to get dressed. At least just because we’re actually going out.
Z: Why.
ESM: Because…we’re going out?
Z: Why.
ESM: Because people certainly don’t want to see me in my grody sweatpants, and they probably shouldn’t see you wearing your oatmeal from this morning’s breakfast. They’ll think I’m an unfit mother.
Z: Why.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. At least, that wasn’t what I thought I was writing about. Maybe I thought wrong. There’s obviously some untapped potential in that line of rant.

A couple of weeks ago, the questions strayed from WHY (hallelujah) and veered over into the week’s line-up. During one particularly busy week, I answered (patiently, patiently, always patiently) numerous questions about who was coming when.

“What day is Gran coming?”
“Friday.”
“What day is Grandma coming?”
“Thursday.”
“What day are we going to music class?”
“Thursday, if we ever get out of our pajamas.”

So I thought, she can recognize a stop sign, three letters, and numerous species of birds. She can recognize and respond to the various expressions of annoyance that show up on my face every day (“You’re very angry right now, aren’t you Mommy”). Why couldn’t she recognize and “read” a big weekly calendar?

Whipping out poster board, construction paper, and a fat black marker, I made her a weekly calendar. She worked in tandem with me at the kitchen table, making “calendars” for Husband and me. I put the calendar up on the basement door next to her room and voila!

Did the calendar solve the questions problem? No. And I hope nothing ever does. The most guilt I feel at this point (well, after the guilt I feel for making her play on her own while I write these rants/blog posts) is if I crack and say, “No more questions!” Because I want her to always, always ask questions. Even annoying ones.

But maybe she could direct those questions to someone else occasionally? Like…her preschool teacher when she starts in August?

Excuse me, I have to go revive The Dance of Joy.