One of my favourite duties as a father of young children is putting them to bed. It’s nice to settle them down after an active day (easier said than done for some kids). I like being able to hold them close. I love hearing them say “good night” and “I love you,” even if it’s just in response to me saying the same things.
Bedtime is also an important time for me as a parent to establish rituals of hygiene, tidiness and spirituality. I don’t mind helping them brush their teeth, clean their rooms or say their bedtme prayers, but I often dread the bedtime story.
It’s hard to find good children’s stories. The vocabulary isn’t always accessible. The morals are often overly simplistic or obviously representative of one particular school of thought. I know my kids like them, but there are of kid’s books that I would be happy if I never had to read them again.
Lately, I’ve been taking my Playbook with me to story time and reading from a collection of classic fairy tales. Anything out of copyright can easily accessed online and my 7″ tablet makes it easy to take them bed with my kids. There is certainly a lot nostalgic value to them, but as I read, I found I was editting out certain content. It struck me that I should probably record the edits I was making, and that maybe other people would enjoy these revised fairy tales.
This will be my revision criteria:
1. Less death – One could argue that we, and our children, are too sheltered from death and dying. It is clear that even a few generations ago young children were much more aware of and comfortable with the possibility of death. Maybe we do need to do a better job of teaching our kids about mortality, but the bedtime story is neither the time or the place for that. So, when the bad guys threaten to kill people, I will soften the blow.
2. Fewer gender-based limitations – I take pride in being able to buy things for my kids, and I’m old fashioned enough that I will buy Disney Princess stuff for my daughter but “progressive” enough that I’m uncomfortable with some of it when I get it home. That being said, I think we can easily overdo the “you can be anything you want to be” message. Most of us cannot be anything we want to be, regardless of gender. At some point we all need to realize and work within the realistic limitations we face. In my world, my daughter has just as many career options as my son, and I’m fine with that. It doesn’t mean, however, that the idea should be drilled into her head in her bedtime stories. These stories often include the heroine taking matters into her own hands, and I will highlight that. Male heroes will need to me multi-dimensional as well. Villains can still be one-dimensionally evil, I’m fine with that.
3. Anabaptist worldview – Not every bedtime story needs to be a Bible story, there doesn’t always have to be a moral. But in cases where certain details can be moulded to fit a 16th century Radical Reformation understanding, I’ll do that.
I will also make the text files available so that others can put these stories on their tablets and use as bedtime stories.