Friday, August 01, 2008

The Duckling

Recently someone gave Gabe a copy of "The Ugly Duckling" that has really cute illustrations. We didn't have that story before that. When I sat down to read it to him yesterday, something in my spirit/gut was really actually bothered by the story and the morale it promoted. I felt really awkward repeatedly using the word "ugly" in regards to appearance. I don't know if Gabe had hardly heard that word before, and this book used it over and over - and then the end of the story is that the ugly duckling is FINALLY worth value when he is eventually beautiful. Blech. I don't really feel like enculturating that "appearance is your worth" value that is already an intrinsic and highly unhelpful part of American culture - and possibly human nature as a whole, from age 3 on up.

Tonight when he brought me that book to read, I decided to use it for my own ends. I referred to the bird as "the duckling" - entirely skipping the repeated "ugly" references, and occasionally substituting "funny-looking" - and after a scene where the barnyard animals make so much fun of the "funny-looking duckling" that he runs away, I stopped and we talked about how much it can hurt children when other children make fun of them, and how it can make people feel really lonely and sad, and how I hope that Gabriel always remembers to stand up for children that other children make fun of and that he can say nice things about them when other people are saying mean things. We also talked about how sometimes some people might look different or even be "funny-looking" on the outside, but how they can be beautiful on the inside, and how God looks at how we are on the inside, and how "funny-looking" people are just as valuable to God as everybody else, and how we should treat them just the same. The reality is that children will see differences - so I want to address the fact that some people do look different - but teach that it is irrelevant. I told Gabe that I want him to be a boy that always tries watch out for kids around him who might be sad or lonely because other kids are being mean to them, and to be their friend instead. Tonight when we prayed before bed, I prayed that God would give him eyes for those people, and that he would be a boy who takes care of those around him, including his brothers. I never quite realized how much I desire my sons to show that character to others until we met "The Ugly Duckling" - but it is a core desire of mine.

Gabriel listened very attentively, with a furrowed, thoughtful brow. This is such an "absorbent" time in his life. I definitely prefer him to absorb things that reflect God's character, instead of "ugly people are not worth anything. Bow before beauty." Blech again. Hans Christian Anderson, you little stinker.


amyjoy said...

i love the way you reframed the ugly duckling, and i completely understand your desire for your boys to look out for those around them. i just had my first baby, and we named her alexandra, mostly because it means "defender of man(kind)" and i very much hope and pray that she will always be an advocate for others.

amy eversole fox
(i don't know if we've ever actually met, but i grew up in goshen, and am friends with joyce and carmen - loved seeing pictures of carmen on your blog!)

Carrie said...

Thanks for your comment, Amy! Congratulations on your new baby - and I really like the meaning of her name.

That's the nice thing about "blog-world" - you end up meeting the friends of your friends. :)