Monday, January 30, 2006

Toddler Justice

Last night, I was flipping through a book about the Tower Of London. We had just spent a lovely day there, enjoying what Winston calls “the castle.” I came across a picture in the book of a room that resonated with Winston’s imagination.

The first floor room of the Wakefield Tower was possibly intended as the king’s chamber. It has a lovely round chandelier, a throne and a small chapel. Of course, at that moment, the boy comes ambling over to see what I’m doing. So, I showed him the picture and once again explained the purpose of the room.

“Sometimes, people had problems and they would come to the king to fix them,” I said. Winston nodded his head. “They would ask for a special visit in this room. It would go something like this..."

Oh, your majesty, my neighbour took my cow and milked her without asking me if I wanted to share.

And the king would say, go tell your neighbour that as payment, you are to have half of his milk for the rest of the year.

And the person would say, Oh king, you are very smart. Thank you. Thank you.

Well, Winston liked this idea so much, he thought he’d like to sit in a chair with his orb (a tennis ball) and his sceptre (a stick) and his king hat (a crown.)

Once Winston was firmly settled on his throne, I approached the throne as his loyal subject. Our drama went as follows:

Mommy Subject:
“Oh, your majesty, my neighbour took my cow and milked her without asking me if I wanted to share.”


King Winston:
Take his cows and put the neighbour in Crocodile Lake!

Mommy Subject:
“Oh king, you are very smart. Thank you. Thank you.”
After I dispatched the King Winston wisdom to the realm, I returned:

Mommy Subject:
May I speak, your majesty?

King Winston:
Begone!

Mommy Subject:
Yes, your majesty.

Clearly the game was not over because he remained on his throne waving his sceptre and holding his orb.

Mommy Subject:
Your majesty, my serving girl ate my cheese without my permission.

King Winston:
Take her to Crocodile Lake and give the her to the neighbour.

Mommy Subject:
To the neighbour?

King Winston:
Give her to the neighbour.

Mommy Subject:
Your majesty is right!

There was a simple kind of wisdom in this logic. The neighbour and the serving girl both take other people’s things without permission. So, I guess King Winston thought they were well-matched. And both somehow deserved a dunking in Crocodile Lake. Funny, how a 2 1/2 year old child has such a good grasp on pre-medieval justice.

So often, we attempt to soften and sanitize history and fantasy for our children. We want them to see the world as safe and secure. We want them to reside in a lovely place of compromise and understanding. But, this simple game of pretend so clearly illutsrates a study done during the Vietnam era. "The teacher asked the children to vote for their favorite ending of Red Riding Hood: wolf feast, woodcutter-take-all, or the stone stomache-ache with a trip down river. Much to the surprise of every adult, the children opted for ending number three because it made the wolf suffer more."(1) Children have an innate need for justice.

(1) Yolen, Jane, Touch Magic, (1981) Philomel Books, New York, "Once Upon A Time," page 30 &31

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Rain Song

Rat a tat tat.
Rat a tat tat

Watch rain drops
get caught
in a spider’s web,

as the clouds
make today’s
sound.

Rat a tat tat
Rat a tat tat


Note: Just a little musing from the balcony the other day.
Winston and I stood amazed in the drizzle.
Watching a spider web catch rain drops.
And suddenly we were singing.

The original version had the verse:

Then the digger
smashed
boom boom clang
and swished away the song
that the sweet rain sang.

Boom Boom Clang
Boom Boom Clang

We had gone out to observe
the building next door being demolished.
But, the spider's web captured our hearts more

and since, we've only sung the first verse....
over and over and over
for it is winter in London after all.