Monday, June 26, 2006

SBD: Moms and daughters.

I think it's very important to read to children, and choosing the right sorts of books is important. I have daughters, so I prefer to find stories that have strong female leads. These should be good people, moral people and fun people. I know it's important for kids to have heroes and role models, and ultimately the parents fill that position until the child is old enough to look outside their peers and into the big world for inspirations.

It's been hard work finding stories I think fit into this modern world for a modern girl. One where the Mom isn't dead, horrible or cruel. Go on, you try and find one, no, one may be easy, try and find five such books. It becomes more of a challenge then. Okay, I know there's plenty, but I'm sure in all your searches you stumbled over at least two dead parents. Why do I want there to be a mother? Well, that's because I'm a mother, and I find it really annoying that so many children's stories have evil mothers or dead ones. Perhaps it's to satisfy my own ego, or fears of my own mortality - you be Freud for a while and let me know what you come up with. Just looking at Disney, how many motherless children can you name? Ariel the little mermaid, nemo the clown fish, Bambi, Snow White, Cinderella, Belle...just to same a few. All of them lost their mothers or had seriously nasty step-moms. What's with all the Mom hate, huh? What's Disney got against us?

I'm not saying that those are all bad stories because there's no mother, but why are there so many? Is it because through history so many children did lose their mothers young because of childbirth? So what's the excuse for the modern versions of these stories? I don't mind if the mom has no real part in the story at all, I just like to know she's there. This is probably one reason I've fallen in love with the Studio Ghibli films - and yes I believe films count as stories - without these films I would never had heard the stories. I love Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, The Cat Returns and Kiki's Delivery Service. All of them have wonderful girl-leads, girls who solve their troubles using smarts and hearts. The moms are all bit parts; in Spirited Away the mom and dad are turned into pigs at the beginning and we don't see them again until the end. But I like knowing they're included and not just killed off to force empathy for the character. They're used as motivation; Got to save my parents before they're turned into bacon!

As a child, I thought that, to be a hero you had to be motherless. I would obsess over and worry that as much I wanted to be a hero, I would have to lose my Mom. Not an easy choice. That spurned me on to have vivid thoughts and daydreams about my Mom dying and leaving me alone. I would often think myself to tears. Oddly enough, I stopped when I had kids of my own, but I've not wanted them to do this to themselves, I mean, I'm not even sure why I did it. I wanted to find stories where they didn't have to worry about the mom or dad for that matter, just enjoy the story without the added worry that one day, they could be parentless. No kid needs that.

other favorites we've found are Judy Moody books. Sassy laughs so hard at most of these stories. The writing is very easy to read and it's very modern. Judy and Sassy have a lot in common; they both have bad moods and tempers, they both have boys as best friends and they both have an slight inferiority complex over schoolwork. There needs to be more of these written, and soon. Also, I'm thinking she's getting old enough to enjoy Harriet the Spy which ticks all the boxes - and perhaps can teach Sassy to be a bit nicer. The only exception I like is Pippi Longstocking - that kid is amazing, and I loved her stories as a kid so I share them with my kids. You couldn't get a stronger more self-assured heroine anywhere.


Then, there's Judy Blume. There's so much to chose from there, how can I list them. But the girls are too young for most of that yet. Perhaps I should stockpile a mini-library for them in preparation. Oh, and Nancy Drew!!

Sorry. I just can't settle for a dead mom book when I don't have to.

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7 comments:

NWJR said...

All of the great Disney cartoons have kids with one or more dead parents. I think it's because it's the greatest trauma/drama a child can experience--losing a parent. It draws them in to the character.

Of course, in the Grimm Fairy Tales, they would have just eaten the parent!

Lyvvie said...

Maybe I was more annoyed that none of the kids were really bothered their mom's were gone. Snow White never said a thing about her mom, nor Briar Rose - and her mom wasn't even dead, just left her to be raised in the woods by three incompetent ex-faries - I imagine that reunion would be cold - nothing like you'd see on Montel.

There should have been at least one sentence about the poor dead mom, in memorium.

Badger said...

Nancy Drew had a dead mom, too.

But I bet the girls aren't too young for some of Judy Blume's stuff, like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, the Fudge books and Freckle Juice.

Lyvvie said...

Did she? Aw crap - See!! Now I've not read those Nancy Drews since I was in single digits, all I remember was they were ok. Slash them off the list then. Thanks Badger!!

Riss said...

I love Spirited Away and have been wanting to watch Howl's Moving Castle for awhile now but every time I see it at the store it's like 20 bucks!

Lyvvie said...

Riss, I think we bought ours from Canada. The exchange rate was the best for us. You've got to see it: It's Amazing!

Jennifer R said...

There was some article online ages ago that boiled down to "You have to kill off the mother because no mother is going to let their kids go off on adventures."