Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Perils of Nursery Rhymes

Fire! Plague! Death!

Not the latest front-page story in tabloid newspaper but the alleged origins of a well-known children's nursery rhyme. It is noticeable how macabre many nursery rhymes and childrens songs are, but it doesn't seem to bother kids. Only this morning Hayley was singing to Oliver about the old woman who swallowed a fly: "perhaps she'll die" was its conclusion, an image almost certainly more disturbing to his parents than to the little man himself.

I'm inclined to think that bombarding our children with all these gruesome thoughts and images really has no ill effects and is just part of growing up. After all, it doesn't seem to have harmed any of us, has it?

But there is still a more practical danger from nursery rhymes and songs that we sing to our children. Yesterday Hayley went shopping alone to our local supermarket. As she walked down the freezer aisle she realised she was singing aloud the song she had been singing to Oliver to make him laugh all afternoon:
"I'm a dingle dangle scarecrow
With a flippy floppy hat,
I can shake my hands like this,
I can shake my feet like that."
She noticed she was drawing a somewhat amused look from a fellow shopper. "I sing it to my son", she appealed, embarrassed, before making her way quickly to the checkout.