A few days ago I stumbled upon this blog – http://www.parentdish.co.uk/kids/nursery-rhymes-true-stories-behind-old-favourites/. That I was shocked upon reading it is putting it very mildly.
‘Why would people pass off such horrible and painful truths as rhymes for little children?” I wondered.
I was upset for a few days. But then realization hit me. During those times, there was no influence of TV or availability of age-appropriate toys for kids like we have today. So what would young mothers do to calm and teach their babies? They wove current happenings into songs and sang it to their kids. These songs passed on from generation to generation without the real truth behind the songs being passed along.
What is a nursery rhyme? It is basically a song that rhymes, sung to small kids. Music calms babies; we all know that for a fact. And rhymes sung softly and melodiously often do the trick. It also helps kids to learn vocabulary and actions. Singing folklore to babies is a common practice across the world anyway. Even Mahabharata and Ramayana that are taught to kids talk about rape (remember Draupadi’s cheer haran), divorce, mass murders and deceit. So who are we fooling anyway?
Next time, you come across such a truth just take it in your stride. A child doesn’t understand the real truth behind the rhyme. She just enjoys the rhyming words and the happy picture they build for her. She doesn’t know that Jill was pregnant and she doesn’t need to know. She is proud to show you how she can tumble down like Jill. Similarly, she is not interested in knowing who Mary or Miss Muffet was. They make her happy, that all she is interested in. And by the time she is old enough to understand that, she would have outgrown them anyway.
When I sing Ring a Ring o’ Roses, seriously bubonic plague is the last thing in my mind. All I care about is my child’s laughter as she makes a huge show of falling down.
So my suggestion: Forget what the rhyme means. It’s good to know but better to be forgotten.