Sep 25, 2015

"GOODNIGHT MOON" - A Child's Perspective

     I recently read a blog post about a parent's issues with Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown.

     When I first clicked on the article I thought they were going to state some sort of underlying, psychological issues about the book's previously unknown history or origin. But I was disappointed.

    Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
     Illustrated by Clement Hurd
     Published September 3, 1947 by Harper Collins

If you want your children to be intelligent read them fairy tales. If you want your children to be more intelligent read them more fairy tales. ~Albert Einstein 

     I was read this book as a child and I would just like to offer a child's perspective on all the issues this parent had with the story. So little, child-sized me says . . .

     The #1 issue was the size of the bunny's bedroom (that it was too big for a bunny)

     The size of the room? It's so cool he has his own room! When big sister moves out, can I have her room?

(I've never once in my entire life had a room all my own. I have shared a room with both my sisters several times. I'm in my twenties now and I still share a room. I have five siblings that I've shared a two bedroom + loft house with. I realize there are smaller houses and apartments out there but why are we complaining about the size of a rabbit's room in a children's fairy tale book again? The author herself was born in Brooklyn, New York City, New York. She knew about the sizes of houses and apartments.)

     #2 The Little Toy House (it not being THAT little, that the rabbit could FIT in the toy house, that it had ELECTRICITY)
     Look, Mommy! A toy house with electricity! You can turn the lights on and off, just like in our house! Oh, I wish I could live in a toy house. I wish I could fit inside one. They have so many pretty things inside. I wish it were mine! (And it should have been quite clear from the beginning pages these rabbits were not Watership Down material, that they were indeed civilized, and I've seen children with much bigger, more sophisticated doll houses than this)

     #3 Interior Decorations of said bunny's room (mainly the red floors and green walls)
  This bunny lives in such a funny place. I wish we could hop inside and go look around the rest of his house! (I would never paint a room these colors. But you see, here is the disadvantage of never being read this book as a child--the colors draw me into this peculiar, mysterious world. The publication date should be ample explanation for the choice of colors as well. This book is from a different century. But that made it no less fascinating to me as a child. The child-sized Kayla finds this a very silly issue altogether.)

     #4 The Bookshelf (it being full of "law books", the lack of child-approved books)
      These are the books the old lady reads to him! It's so cool he has so many big books! And if you look closely at the open book on the shelf you'll see it IS a child's book, The Run Away Bunny, by the same author. (These books may seem boring to today's children, but the children of the 1940s and to me there are magic. Books hold magic. And quite obviously this old lady reads to the bunny. Maybe not always what the bunny wants to hear, but she's obviously teaching him to be a good listener.)

     #5 The Idea that Anyone Would Keep a comb and a brush a bowl full of mush on the same table.
    The old lady brought him the bowl of mush for a midnight snack because he's having trouble going to sleep. But he's now saying goodnight to everyone and everything, so he's done eating. He set it on the table to be taken away. He finished brushing his hair a long time ago anyway. And to get "soggy hairs" in the mush you would have to stand right over the bowl. I won't get my hair in it, Mommy, I promise!

     #6 The World's Smallest, Most Useless Clothesline
     It's winter time and the socks and the mittens have gotten wet while the bunny played in the snow. There's a roaring fire and the bunny will likely go out to play again tomorrow. So instead of making  more laundry and to avoid having to turn on the dryer just for a pair of socks and mittens, we'll be what mommy calls echo-nomical(economical) and hang them up to dry in front of the fire so they'll be nice and toasty by tomorrow.

     #7 Continuation on the issues with the room/bed colors . . . 
     The bunny likes green and red! They're his favorite colors. You painted my room my favorite color! His mommy and daddy painted his room his favorite colors, too.

     #8. The Dangerous, Non-child proofed fireplace
     His mommy and daddy TAUGHT him to be careful around the fire. Just like my mommy and daddy taught me around wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, and helping mommy cook around hot stoves and burners. They told me I'd get hurt if I went near the fire, and once I learned my lesson. The bunny probably learned his lesson, too, and so he knows now the fire is hot and he's smart enough not to go near it.
(What child is going to care about room dimensions and heating?) Can I have a fireplace in my room, too? Please-please?

     #9 The Mouse (the cats and lack of mice chasing)
     This bunny lives in a magical world! In magical worlds mice and cats are whatever you want them to be. This is a nice, friendly mouse who is not afraid of the cats because the bunny has befriended it and told the cats not to hurt it. I wish I could be friends with a mouse.

     #10 The Black Telephone by his bed (why does he need it? And it's technologically out of date)
    Do you think I could call grandma sometime? I just thought it was cool he has a phone in his room! Can I have a phone in my room, too?
     (Goodnight Moon, Publication date 1947. These were the phones they had back then. Perfectly obvious reason. And why would you teach your children to disregard something simply because it's out of date? Why don't you use this to give them a sense of history? To bring to life the time and place that their grandparents and their great-grandparents came from? To give them perspective on how the world is growing and progressing. Teach them that it's not at all necessary to be stuck to a phone all day. You can leave it at home. It's far more educating to actually talk to people face to face.)

     #11 Three Little Bears Picture (it being a couples of therapy session)
     *sigh* You don't read very many fairy tales, do you? This is a picture of the bears in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Any kid would know that!

     #12 Continuing with the room colors (and other things) 

     *another sigh* Let's find the amazing, ever disappearing mouse instead of looking at the doll on the book-shelf, or how big the nightstand is, or how many toys the bunny had. Wow! That bunny keeps his room so neat and clean(actual childhood thought). And the mouse probably helps him so the old lady wouldn't get mad at him and scold him all the time.

     When my mom read this book to my siblings and I she put warmth and imagination into every word, every page.  I loved the mysterious way she always whispered "hush" and expressed the sensitive, caring tone of the rabbit as it said goodnight to all the things in his bedroom, because he loved everything in his bedroom, and they were important enough to say goodnight to.You're missing  out on teaching the sweetness of the poetry of this book and the chance to calmly slip your child off into sweet, peaceful dreams.

    This is my plea to parents: Teach your children to be filled with wonder and imagination, and not to criticize, condemn, and complain. Teach them that there are differences in people's lives and that they should be grateful for what they have. Teach them to love books and teach them to listen. Childhood is a fleeting, precious moment, and an opportunity to instill them everything they need to know to be a good grown-up.

Because without wonder and imagination how will they ever believe in the impossible?


Christa Upton said...

Beautiful perspective!!!! I LOVE "Goodnight Moon" and have ever since someone gave it to us when our first child was little. I LOVE hearing you speak of the "mystery and wonder" of it. Our real, live cat never chased mice, either. lol But I LOVE your thoughts about it and every other detail. Makes me want to read the book right now. :)

Dawna said...

Amen! You tell them, sister!