Lydia has been taking swim lessons all summer. Recently there was a switch in her class so we have been going in the morning rather than in the evening. My dad has been joining us because it was getting difficult getting her in and out of the carseat by myself being as pregnant as I am. The other day while Lydia was swimming, Abuelo diligently watching her every move and I scheduling another contractor, we all over hear a conversation.
To our right there was a mother, a grandmother, a granddaughter and an impatiently impending swimmer. The grandmother begins to read a book to her granddaughter, " There was an old woman who swallowed a fly...WHAT? That is ridiculous." The other waiting moms and Abuelo room erupted into laughter. Her reaction was so surprising. So shocking, I am not sure any of us could hold in our amusement at her response.
She sighs but continues, "I don't know why she swallowed a fly she may die. WHAT kind of book is this?" Her daughter tries to explain it is a little bit of a classic but doesn't quite convince her. The grandmother continues to read each page accompanied with additional consternation. Once she arrives to the old woman swallowing the dog that was it. Her next, "WHAT!" was followed by her daughter taking the book from her and instruction the little girl to get a more "Toddler appropriate story to read."
On the other side of the room, three moms discussed the story. One woman stated that she had remembered the story as a child to read "I guess she will cry." Another woman stating that she was a preschool teacher agreed and said that she herself had always read the book to her students omitting the death portion and replacing it with crying instead.
I pondered for a while this odd scenario that unfolded before me. We read this book to Lydia all the time. I never once considered that she would think that someone would actually swallow any of these animals, however I suppose if she did I am glad that the result would be death. I wouldn't want to her to think eating a fly or a spider on purpose would just be a few tears. Spiders are dangerous tiny creatures and if Lydia attempted to eat an entire horse I am fairly sure that the horse may react poorly. Despite these practicalities, the other consideration is why would we want to shield our children from death completely?
Death is not a fun life lesson. It just isn't. Nevertheless, it is a part of the human experience. Isn't it preferable to mention death in an absurd or fantastical fairy tales prior to having real loss in life? To me, it is. It is better than being side swiped by the finality of being; the child would at least know that it exists, it happens.