Friday 22 November 2013

Nursery rhymes or nightmares?

We told you not to sit on the wall man!

Like many other present day parents, it wasn't until I had children that I realised how f#cked up nursery rhymes are. Sure, you get the odd Mary with her woolly pal, but for every cute lamb song there's five other horror stories you're stupidly singing away to your child's innocent face on a daily basis.

Don't believe me? Try these on for size:

Three vision impaired mice get their tails hacked off
An egg man falls off a wall and smashes to pieces
Two kids pretty much break their necks trying to get a drink of water
A bridge falls apart

...the list goes on.

The worst one for me though is the old man sleeping while it rains who hits his head and never wakes up again - so he's dead basically. Oh, and the baby in the cradle who falls out of the tree. Lovely. Now go to sleep little one..

It's a natural instinct as a parent to trot out the songs and rhymes you were exposed to as a child. They're deeply embedded in your subconscious and it feels normal to repeat them to your own children - that is, until you realise how scary the words are.

Some disturb me so much I've started to add extra lines after the song's finished. In our house the old man can't get up in the morning but he's fine by lunchtime. Everybody's happy. I know there's a time and place for children to understand death, but a cheery throwaway ditty is not the way to go about it. And do we really want our kids terrified to go to sleep when it rains?

Of course all of these old nursery rhymes have historic meanings which are usually nowhere near as frightening as they sound in this modern age - except perhaps Ring-a-ring o'Rosies which was about the Bubonic Plague (fact: original lyrics for 'a-tishoo a-tishoo' were 'ashes ashes' which symbolised the cremation of all the dead bodies, nice). Ironically this song is one that has actually improved over time and now sounds pretty innocent.

However Humpty Dumpty, for example, was apparently a cannon during the English Civil War in the 1600s, which couldn't be put back together when it fell because it was simply too heavy. So not an egg man after all (if you're looking for one try The Beatles).

The problem is though, it doesn't really matter what the origins are of some of these nursery rhymes, most of them just sound downright horrible, and with subject matter you would never consciously dream of singing to your child.

So what's a mum to do? Well, I could just try and not sing the bad tunes anymore, but it's so hard not to! The words fly out of your mouth before you even realise what's going on. So I guess the answer is I've got to keep adding my own lines. I also sing lots of my own made-up stuff too which is great for getting the kids involved (thankfully I've cut down on my Queen act), but sometimes it just doesn't captivate the audience as much as an egg man does.

And I'm not even going to go there with fairytales. 

Which nursery rhymes give you nightmares?

photo credit: elMuscho via photopin cc

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