I'm a homeschooling mom, which means I'm responsible for the education of my young children. As a homeschooling educator, I get to see the moments information enters my children's minds and the response it produces. It has been interesting reading fairytales and children's fables, since some of them contain violent situations and perhaps introduces the realization of mortality. These are things that adults sometimes have a hard time dealing with themselves, one can only imagine how much more difficult it is for children to know what to make of these things.
There is a temptation in one's homeschool to avoid some topics altogether, yet better than shielding one's children is to prepare them and teach them to think critically of the information they are being given. Adults learn the hardest lessons the worst way when parents fail to teach them to think things through ahead of time.
And before anyone wants to brush this fairy tale off as "just a make believe story", we can use it as an opportunity to learn some real lessons about life, since there are things that occur in this make believe story that do happen in real life.
Today, the story in our textbook was Cinderella. It was a short version, yet I found several things I could pause and talk to my kids about that I'd like to share with you. These are things that I have learned as an adult, that I was not aware of their influence as a child watching fairytale movies like Cinderella. Here are the things that stood out to me as I read this story to my kids, and that I think every parent should take some time to think through with their children.
Pause #1: The role of the author is significant in any story. Why did the author decide to leave the main character without a mother? Might it be for personal, educational, or plot reasons? The heavy introduction to this story brings death to the mind of children. Christians have a hope to live in heaven for eternity, but how much more sad and frightful might the concept of death be to those without this hope?
Pause #2: Cinderella is portrayed as a good person, but according to Scripture, only God is good. Humanity with no end behaves the opposite of good in many different ways, but the Holy Spirit helps believers to live according to the fruit of the Spirit, which are good things for us to live out. We needed Jesus to pay for our sins, and through Jesus we can come boldly before God and have eternal life. For the sake of this story, we can agree Cinderella made good choices, except when she didn't as we'll see later on.
Pause #3: While we're on the topic of goodness, Cinderella's author seems to imply that conceding to unfair and harsh treatment is the right thing to do. Although we would agree that her lack of retaliation and forgiveness in the end of the story are exemplary, should girls be quiet when treated unfairly? Girls in particular must learn to communicate and effectively confront wrong behaviors from other people and their demands, as well as seek help from others when necessary. In the process, we have the Comforter helping us through challenging moments in life.
Pause #4: What are reasons a man should want to marry a woman? Are the physical appearances a woman has to offer the only thing that matters? Should Cinderella have conceded to marry the prince simply because of his royal title and capability to provide her a better life? What are qualities a woman should seek in a husband? Women are often praised for their beauty, even as they are just born, and when they reach a certain age, and the external beauty has faded, a woman might encounter low self esteem feelings because that may have been all they were praised for most of their life. What are qualities that will not fade away with time that we ought to praise women for instead?
Pause #5: Should we do what makes us feel good or happy always? What are times that our heart tells us to do something that would make us feel good, but it would be harmful to someone else? What does the Bible teach us about our heart? The Bible helps us to make good choices in moments where our heart cannot be trusted.
Pause #6: Are there fairy godmothers? How is God different from a fairy godmother? Is the supernatural real? Does this story promote the idea the supernatural is make-believe? Does the Bible talk about witchcraft and what does it say will happen to the people that practice it? Do people in real life practice things similar to the fairy godmother in this story? Are fairies, spells, wands things that can be found being symbolic of or things practiced in ancient times and by what people?
Pause #7: Should Cinderella have agreed to receiving someone's help if it involved something that God commands us not to practice in the Bible? Should we place our happiness above obeying God? What might Cinderella have done instead? Should Christians pray when they are sad and feeling alone? Are believers ever alone and without help from God?
Pause #8: Can a person live a satisfying life without a luxurious life? What might have been another happy ending for Cinderella without a fairy godmother or attending the ball?
I think these are more than enough considerations for now, but I'm sure you and your children can think of even more in your own pause moments. I don't think many people realize how we are being shaped by many things, even as simple as a Cinderella story. It's important to take a moment and really think about what we are being taught directly or indirectly.
(Makes me want to write a Christian version Cinderella story... maybe one day. It would be difficult as I can't put words on God's mouth and use him as a character the way writers do with fairy godmothers. Let's attempt to write it real quick, bullet point style. Cinderella lost her mother, but had hope in seeing her one day in heaven again. Her father, after a grieving period, carefully chose a new wife with an exemplary character, who would treat his daughter as though she were her very own. The entire family went to the ball together, and Cinderella's father cut in as the prince was dancing with her, took her home and the prince received permission from her father to court Cinderella for the next months. The prince fell more in love with her as he learned about all of her character's beauty. He fell in love with all of her, not just her appearances. The prince got her father's permission to marry his daughter, and Cinderella had a great impact on the kingdom. The people, including the prince, admired her bold example as she did her best to live according to God's word, helping the poor, and loving others as God commands.)