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Just this past weekend, my husband was flipping through the TV channels looking for something for the girls to watch when he stumbled upon Disney's The Lion King movie. For a split-second, everyone was thrilled, until they realized they were right at the part where the hideously evil Scar kills his brother Mufasa, leaving little Simba orphaned (and thinking he killed his father -- I mean, who does that?). Hysterical weeping ensued. Even though they had watched the movie before (and read the book and seen the show), they were heartbroken.
I'll admit, I tried to shield them from the horrors of many of the classic fairy tales for as long as I could. Both of my daughters are pretty clingy to begin with; do I need them to live in constant fear that I'm going to drop dead at any moment (thanks to motherless Bambi, Nemo, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and many, many others) or that someone might try to kidnap and eat them (Hansel and Gretel)? No thanks.
Apparently I’m not alone. The BBC reports that in a survey of 2,000 parents, half say they think classic tales including Rumpelstiltskin and Little Red Riding Hood are too scary for the preschool set. (And, they add, Goldilocks sets a bad example because of the theft business, which I happen to think is a bit of a stretch. I mean, the only thing she stole was the porridge. She was just borrowing the chair and the bed.)
I'm sure there are plenty of parents who believe that it's never too soon to introduce children to classic literature. Obviously I am not one of them. Here’s my take on the topic (as I explain in the chapter of my book The Parent Trip called "Mommy's Dead: Fun and Enlightening Tales for Tots"): Sure, there are crazy folks in the world who try -- sometimes successfully -- to enslave and eat children. And yes, all living things die. That's life. But can't these joyful little lessons wait until our kids are a teeny bit older? Me, I'm raising my kids on a steady literary diet of Fancy Nancy until I’m ready for the fallout.