5 parenting values we can learn from children’s classics

Earlier this year I unpacked boxes of my children’s books, not seen for several years and I found many of my old favourites. A nightly ritual began – our youngest would go to bed after a picture book, and my seven-year-old would race to our little blue couch to find where we were up to in the children’s classic of my choice. What surprised me is how long ago they were written. The language in some cases is hard to follow and a lot went over my son’s head but the stories are so compelling that he never lost interest. And there are some important lessons in these books.

 

 

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1960 edition bought in Fuller’s Bookshop, Hobart (back when the apostrophe was still used)

The Magic Pudding, by Norman Lindsay written in 1918. The character names are some of my favourites. And the way Bunyip Bluegum speaks so eloquently is what eventually saves the day. What I really like in this book is the enjoyment of just going for a walk. Not walking to catch Pokemon. Not racing to be first. But the fun of getting about on foot. Plus I love that they build a tree house to live in at the end.img_6291

 

 


1932 edition with beautiful colour platesAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll, 1865

Alice is bored. Bored!? Really? Why isn’t she being entertained by her parents or an electronic device? But because she’s bored she has the most incredible adventure of any book ever. Ever! There are so many cultural references that originate in this book it feels like compulsory reading for every child. So, let your kids get bored. And maybe they’ll have adventures too.img_6289

 

This is a reprint of the 1921 edition with colour plates

Peter Pan and Wendy by JM Barrie, 1911
It’s so interesting re-reading this book after seeing the Disneyfied Peter Pan and Tinkerbell characters for so long. There’s a surprising amount of death in this book. And tragic stories of children with no mothers. So this one is appreciation for one’s mother. I feel so taken for granted by my children that I like to see more appreciation of mothers – and maybe they’ll feel how sad it would be not to have one.

 

 

 

The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, 1946
Now here are some kids with their heads screwed on straight. Even though they’re on holidays they can’t run off to the Enchanted Forest until they’ve done their work. Work!? Make children work? Yep, they garden and tidy their rooms and wash and mend their own clothes when they rip them. Okay that last one is maybe just the girls, but still, sensible working kids. Plus they leave no kid behind, even annoying Connie.

From the box set I was given when I was 7

 

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis, 1950
Siblings need to stick together – though sometimes it takes a life and death situation to learn that . Mean Edmund who picks on his little sister really gets his comeuppance in this book. These four kids have no parents to watch out for them so they need to do it themselves.

 

When can you call yourself a writer?

I’ve been reflecting lately about when you can start calling yourself a children’s writer or a creator of anything. When you publish your first book? When someone pays you something for it? When you’re brave enough to say, this is what I do; maybe not full time, but hey, that doesn’t matter.

I’ve been struggling with feeling timid about telling people that I am bringing out a CD of children’s songs. It feels … presumptuous somehow. Like I should have a degree behind me, or at least some incredible expertise in playing an instrument, or an amazing singing voice. But all I have is a fascination with language, rhyme and catchy tunes.

Elizabeth Gilbert has written many things in her wonderful book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear which have strongly resonated with me. One is about having the courage to ignore the voice within you that tells you you’re being ‘self-indulgent and preposterous to do this crazy thing.’ She says living creatively is ‘living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear’. And let’s face it, there’s too much fear around. Fear people will laugh at me, won’t take me seriously, not like my work, and so on.

I know my work is not going to appeal to everyone. Some will think it’s too educational. Some will think it’s not educational enough. But that’s okay. No song or book appeals to everyone.

I could write a lot about how I’m not qualified to bring out a CD like this. But I won’t. When I say, all I have is a fascination with language, rhyme and catchy tunes, that’s not telling the whole story. I’ve been working on becoming a better writer for more than three years. I’ve taken workshops and courses in song writing, creative writing and children’s writing. I’ve gone to writing conferences and paid for manuscript critiques. I’ve joined online forums and critique groups and submitted my work for others’ review. I’ve entered competitions. I’ve attended a conference for Australian teachers of Indonesian to get teachers’ perspectives, I’ve asked for feedback from teachers and musicians. I’ve sung and played music throughout. And I’ve continued to write and revise and write and revise.

And each time I heard the voice inside me saying, there’s no point in doing this, you may as well give up now, I stubbornly persisted.

As Elizabeth Gilbert writes: You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life. Life’s so short so just get on with what you want to do and stop worrying about what other people think.

Also, your art doesn’t need to change the world. So true! I certainly didn’t write songs with the aim of more children learning Indonesian or having an appreciation for Indonesian life. I wrote them for me and for my children and because these are the kinds of songs I love.

All this is to say I don’t know what will happen in the future but that I’m extremely proud to have a CD that I’ll be launching next month. And sometimes it’s just about finishing one project so you can move onto the next!

For details of the launch on 28 October 2016, visit the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.