I Dare Say – It does them no harm (5-3-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (May 3, 1944)


It does them no harm

By Florence Fisher Parry

This young mother said to me:

I dread taking my little girl to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs because I just know she’ll have nightmares.

“What makes you think so?” I asked.

Well, you know the witch is so scary. After she saw Bambi she had nightmares, and when she saw Dumbo, her heart fairly broke.

I asked her:

Well, would you deny her these Disney pictures? Would you deprive her of the joy they gave her just because of a couple of childish dreams and a few hours’ lost sleep? Which do you think is more important – having her keep her schedule or giving her wonderful little imagination a chance to exercise?

Heaven knows I do not regard myself as an exemplary parent. I made an awful lot of mistakes in the bringing up of my children; but there’s one, thank God, I never made. I did not put them in cotton batting when they were little children. I exposed them to the normal winds and weathers of childhood and did not hesitate to sacrifice their “schedule” to an occasional dislocation, if the occasion warranted it.

The other evening, I stopped in at Loew’s Penn to take another look at Snow White. I was surrounded by little children.

Yes, they were frightened with the woodsman almost killed Snow White. Yes, they were anguished when Snow White was lost in the menacing forest. Yes, they were terrified at the witch and shuddered at the horrible vulture. Yes, they sobbed when Snow White died and mourned with the dwarfs at her bier. And I have no doubt that the excitement carried over into the next day, and that they missed their naps and that their eating and sleeping schedules were shot to pieces.

Well, what of it?

The alternative

Living is a choice. It’s an alternative. Stack a few hours of lost sleep and a few childish nightmares against the richness and beauty and imaginativeness and poetry of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and what have you? Why, there’s no choice! There’s no alternative!

What are you bringing up your child to be? A mollycoddle? A hot house bloom? Or are you bringing him up to be human being, sensitive to the magic and beauty and drama of his life?

I am thankful that when my children were little the arbitrary urgencies of my own life requested me sometimes to take them with me to the theater and the movies, and on trips which for the moment changed the ordered pattern of their lives and dislocated the deadly routine of their schedule. I am glad for the evenings when I took them to the circus or to Twelfth Night or Showboat or a lovely Mickey Mouse cartoon.

I’m glad that I didn’t chase them off to the kitchen to eat their porridge when company came, but let them sit, starched and partyfied, at the tabled with the grownups, and occasionally risk their tender digestions to the mercies of a rich desert.

Looking back over those undisciplined years, I cannot remember the very occasional stomach aches and nightmares. I cannot remember the just average report cards. I cannot remember the little brashes and temperatures.

But oh, how I remember when we went to the circus together, the movies and the plays!

Gives them the sun

What? Take the children to the theater on Monday night – a school night? What? Let them see anything as cruel as a rodeo? What? Waste a ticket on a child to see Hamlet?

Why, yes – why not? I am only sorry now that I didn’t do it more often. Give children love, sun, air, simple foods, happy bedtimes and happy wakenings in the morning, and they grow like sturdy plants and put out branches that lift to the wonder and beauty of life.

Whenever I see a child who isn’t allowed to go to the movies, who isn’t allowed ever, ever to break the deadly routine of his schedule; whenever I see a child who dreads bedtime, or who is forced to eat his gruel although he gags; whenever I see a child that is deprived of the beautiful adventures that dreams and even nightmares bring, I say: Something is being left out that will deprive him forever of awareness and sensitivity.

Living is an exciting business and drama is everywhere about. Danger lurks in every footfall; but right alongside there are miracles to uncover! In pity’s name, then, prepare them for the capricious adventure. If you do not give them arms, if you do not give them armor, if you do not let them know that the sun can both heal and burn, then how, unequipped, can they meet what’s ahead?

The circus often ends in a stomach ache and the witch of Snow White may bring a childish nightmare, but which is more important – the circus or the passing stomach ache? – Snow White or a passing broken slumber?