If you have kids, chances are you’ve read and sung silly nursery rhymes. Some are meant to teach kids lessons like how to count. Others are meant to relax children before they go to sleep. But have you ever stopped to analyze the words and what they really mean? There’s some questionable parenting out there in nursery rhyme land.
I present to you three case studies.
Case #1: Mother Duck of 5 Little Ducks
To give you an idea, this nursery rhyme is designed to teach kids how to count backwards from five to zero. It’s beginner subtraction. Which is fine and dandy, until we go all Dateline on Mother Duck. For those of you who are unable to watch the video, the words go like this:
“Five little ducks went out one day. Over the hill and far away. Mother Duck said, “Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack!” But only four little ducks came back.”
And then the song repeats with four ducks, three ducks, and so on until no little ducks come back. At the very end of the song, sad Mother Duck calls one last time and all five ducks come back to her (I’ve also heard versions where the ducks don’t come back until angry Daddy Duck calls for them. For now we’ll ignore all that line implies).
Now, if this were real life, here’s how this nursery rhyme would turn out:
Three little kids went out to play, over the hill and far away. Mother Erin said “Hey kids come back!”, but only 2 little kids came back.
Mother Erin said, “Well that’s OK. It’s just you two for dinner today.” CPS came, “Knock! Knock! Knock! Knock!” Mother Erin placed under key and lock.*
*Ignore my crap rhymes. There’s a reason I don’t write children’s songs.
Verdict: Bad parenting
Uh, here’s a clue, Mother Duck! You don’t just let the missing ducks stay out. In the words of Billy Madison, “You get your @ss out there and find those effing ducks!” At the very least call the police and fill out a missing child report and possibly set up an Amber Alert.
Case #2: The Parents in Rock-a-Bye Baby
Most of us know the words to this one, but just in case:
Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetops,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
So let’s take a look at the evidence. The unnamed parents have placed a baby on the treetop. Then the wind blows so hard the cradle rocks and it falls down. Baby and all. I can only imagine this resulted in a dead baby.
Verdict: Bad parenting (in most cases)
Unless the parents were superheros (in which case, maybe this is how little superheros learn to fly and who am I to judge?), I can’t imagine any modern-day scenario where placing a cradle in a treetop is safe. I mean, I know. I know how it goes. Babies sometimes need crazy soothing methods to fall asleep at night, and maybe the rocking boughs were the only thing that used to work for parents. But not anymore. Parents, I urge you, do not become tempted by the words of this song. Get yourselves a bouncy seat and a truck load of D batteries instead. Problem solved.
Case #3: The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread,
And whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed.
Verdict: Bad parenting
Um, can we say child abuse? Hey, I know how difficult it can be to stay home with the kids all day. I imagine it would be especially hard if you lived in a shoe. The smell alone. *shudder* But the solution to the issue is not to whip the kids and send them to bed. Let’s try Time Out first, ok?
There are countless other cases (Mother Monkey who repeatedly lets her kids jump on the bed, Mother Hood who lets Little Red out into the dangerous woods alone without a lesson in Stranger Danger, and so on…), but I think the evidence is clear: Nursery rhymes aren’t so much lessons for children as they are cautionary tales for parents. Don’t be like these horrible mothers and you should be OK.