Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Curious George, the Strong Willed Monkey

One of the things that I've noticed among many homeschooling moms is that we get concerned about the morals and lessons in the stories our children read. I remember when Autumn was a year and a half old, I began reading Curious George stories and realized that almost all of the time there are no consequences for George when he's done wrong.  I was so alarmed and at first I wanted to give away all of our Curious George books.  But, my daughter loved monkeys and I couldn't quite bear to give the stories away.  Then, I had my second daughter and she loved the stories too, so the stories stayed.  We all loved the PBS George series and that cemented George's place in our home.  

Reading obviously matters a lot to me.  I've thought a lot about what I read, what my children read, what I read to them, and why.  Several books gave me some wonderful food for thought and I'd highly recommend them if you haven't read them.  Gladys Hunt wrote three books--Honey for a Child's Heart, Honey for a Teen's Heart, and Honey for a Woman's Heart.  I feel she makes good points and has a balanced perspective.  She is protective of children and teens, but also realizes that you can't keep them completely away from the world.  Sometimes there are other lessons in books that we don't see at first.  

Life isn't fair.  There aren't always consequences.  The Psalms talk about how the wicked prosper--but not forever.  How do we help our children understand that?  Shouldn't we help them understand why we ultimately live with integrity?  That isn't about the consequences, but about who God wants us to be.  That we want to glorify Him and do the right thing even when nobody sees.  

There's also something else in books.  We see parts of ourselves in the characters and the stories.  Sometimes it helps us understand our own lives and talk about what's going on.  

I do believe that books can plant ideas before children are ready for them.  I don't believe it is wise to let children read whatever they want, but sometimes I think we take ourselves too seriously.  I was given that advice about myself by a pastor nine years ago.  I remember it often.

So, how does all of this relate to Curious George?  Well, a few months ago a friend wrote on her blog that she was getting rid of some books in her child's collection.  They were Curious George stories and I knew that I had been the one to give them to her.  It didn't bother me.  I actually didn't have any reaction to her post, except "I once thought that same thing."  

But, I don't anymore.  

A huge lightbulb turned on in my head on Monday as I was driving away from Trader Joe's and listening with my children to Curious George Feeds the Animals on cd.  George fed the giraffes because he thought they were hungry.  Then, he gets chastised.  Then, he helps the zookeeper find the parrot and fix the hole in the netting.  

I stopped for a minute and asked my kids if they knew Curious George had done something wrong.  Yes.

Did it make them think it was okay to do something wrong?  No.

And then it hit me.  Curious George is a strong willed monkey.  There's this good hearted quality about George.  He always does what he think is best--it overrides what he's been told not to do.  Just like strong willed children.  Just like me.  Just like my Sami and my Eli.  He isn't trying to be bad!  

One of the lies Kendra Smiley identifies in her book The Journey of a Strong Willed Child is that when strong willed children disobey--it isn't about you, the parent.  They have an idea in their heads that overrides their desire to please.  Does this excuse all disobedience?  NO.  As parents of strong willed children, we need to love them and understand them.

Monday night at dinner, I told Sami five times to sit down with her sucker.  The fifth time, I yelled.  Enough!  But, I knew her exuberance had just overridden her desire to obey.  She knew.  I knew.  I love her.  She's trying.  She did better yesterday.  She held my hand in the parking lot and followed my directions in the grocery store.  She does listen.  But, there are times....  She's my George and I love her.

So, just in case you're thinking about not reading George to your children, I'd give it a second chance.  It just might make you smile--like the stories have done for my children and me.  

I don't think I'm ever going to look at Curious George the same again.

1 comment:

Kim said...

:) I have a strong willed Sami, too!
I never thought about George that way, but it's true. The problem I always had with the stories was why did The Man in the Yellow Hat continue to leave a monkey, especially one with George's track record, unsupervised everywhere. I guess I saw it more as a parenting failure than from the strong willed child perspective. We still love George around here. And our strong willed Sami!