Sunday, June 15, 2008

Teach Your Children

Read to your kids; it is one of the greatest influences you can have on them. But beware: the literature I read to my daughter led her to love a movie that embraces anarchy and violence.
We know that what we read to our kids shapes their lives. That's why we read to them at bedtime: it helps prepare them for being 50 years old, sitting in a comfortable chair reading the same page for an hour and a half because you keep nodding off in the same place and now it's well past 10 pm, time to go to bed, and you don't have a clue what the book is about.
Winnie the Pooh was probably my favorite book among those my father read to us. When I tried to share the original Pooh stories with my daughter, she would tolerate only those involving Eeyore because, apparently, I do a very fine impression of a morose, passive-aggressive, donkey with his tail nailed to his ass (no pun intended). Young Allie was more a fan of the Disney Pooh, which was sacrilege in my family, what with the Rabbit character being made into a Bug Bunny/Roger Rabbit mutant and the introduction of Gopher (why? What earthly improvement over the classic Pooh cast does he bring? None, that's what.) She still loves Pooh today, but I don't think the Pooh stories I read her had much influence on who she is now.
The earliest real favorite "book" of Allie's that I remember was an FAO Schwartz catalog. I "read" this to her so many times that it eventually fell apart. She was young enough that she was just learning new words. She would point at pictures, I would say the item and she would repeat all or part of it. That's how she learned to say "Boop" because Betty Boop was enjoying a resurgent popularity that year in the form of childrens' toys because, I suppose, Betty was an equally good role model as Barbie (if you never actually saw the sex-and-drug-influenced early Betty). Our shared catalog reading heavily influenced her later years. I believe she is pursuing her education to enter a lucrative career that will provide money for incessant shopping sprees. And catalogs: Victoria's Secret catalog is her favorite reading material now, just judging by the number of editions we have around the house. But we never sit on the couch with this one, paging through it, pointing at the pictures and saying "Boop".
Somehow, Allie became interested in the New Yorker cartoons and I had several of those books that had belonged to my parents. I would read her those and try to explain them. She loved Charles Addams' and his "Addams' Family" characters. It is because of these cartoons, I believe, that my daughter wants to live in New York someday; all the people there are so witty and weird and gothic.
Finally we got into Calvin and Hobbes which influenced Allie to become funny and ironic and cynical, just like her dad. We read every one of those comic collections we could get our hands on and we still haven't forgiven Bill Watterson for quitting. But it was Calvin and his tiger who led Allie and me later in life to an appreciation of the violence-laden, anarchy-endorsing movie "Fight Club". How is that related to Calvin and Hobbes? Well, under rule #1, I can't talk about it, but I can link you to this.

FAO Schwartz catalog = a frog waltz act: Chaos!

1 comment:

Susan said...

Fight Club is one of my all time favorite movies! The fact that led my friend Cheryl to look at me and say, "There's a whole side of you I don't even know." :-)