Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Three Little Pigs: In, Down, Over

We have a number of versions of The Three Little Pigs and, with each version that I read to her, poor Molly becomes frustrated beyond belief.

Why? Because the wolf blows the house in and not down or over
Little pig, little pig, let me come in. 
'No, no, by the hair on my chiny chin chin.' 
Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in.*
Surely, she has asked me, there is a version that has the correct word? In fact, she can recall that I've read it to her in the past but I have no such memory. I have explained, while stifling a laugh, that the word is used because it rhymes with "chinny chin chin" but it's to no avail. She anticipates, at each sitting, the first huffing-and-puffing episode with hope and, looking up at the ceiling, expresses her disappointment and frustration when the wolf threatens to blow the house in.

Why is she hung up on a preposition? I've wondered. Well, in her world, as I've come to understand it, perfection is something you should expect and which you should want to expect. I'm not exaggerating. Despite all my efforts to explain that perfection is not attainable, that striving towards it leads to strife, that everyone has to accept degrees of imperfection and accommodation, the child will not believe me. YOU may settle for imperfection, but she will not.

That many things come easily to her only reinforces her drive. As such, we had the following conversation on May 6:
– Why do you like everything to be perfect? 
Because everything is boring if it isn't perfect.  
– What does being perfect mean?  
          – Getting things perfect.
– How can you make mistakes if everything has to be perfect?    
I won't. 
– I make mistakes and I'm not perfect. Is that OK? 
          – I'm perfect.

It not only extends to conversations but to interactions in general. She exacts perfection from the world. Honestly, I didn't quite know what to say the other day when, as a friend of hers expected a gaming device to be charged immediately after plugging it in, Molly, in a world-weary kind of way, snapped: "Just let it suck up some electricity first!"

She also has an adorable, if perplexing, habit of telling you to say something:
– Is this a good idea, Mum? Say, 'That's a good idea'.   
– That's a good idea.
In this way, she constructs the world as she likes it. Lately, we've taken to imitating her in a very affectionate way:
– Is this a good idea, Mummy? Say, 'That's a good idea.' 
– That's a good idea, Daddy.
But, as you might expect, she doesn't like this at all as, we've discovered, she has a proprietary attachment to this manner of speech:
– Hey! You can't say that, Daddy! 
– Why not? 
– That's MY expression.
Of course, we find her adorable as everyone finds their children adorable. Devyn, however, has another approach which is completely understandable:
– Devyn, why didn't you repeat what she said to say?   (I asked, out of curiosity, one day.) 
– Oh. I never say what she commands me to say.
And, that, I've concluded, is how the rest of the world is going to react to our little perfectionist; so we don't correct Devyn's behaviour and, surprisingly, Molly doesn't ever press the issue with her.

This disposition of hers may be advantageous in the area of computer games. Unfortunately, she gets upset when a computer game doesn't behave in a way that she would like it to: If she thinks a snowman should be able to be increased to 2x its size but the game only allows 1.5x, then Molly gets emotional. She used to throw tantrums at two and three years old and each session invariably ended with me telling her that, if she was going to play a game, she would have to follow its rules and not get upset; otherwise, she'd have to turn to another activity.

Keith explained it to her this way: "The only way that you will ever get a game to do exactly what you want is to program one yourself." She seemed to understand this but it was little consolation.

Thankfully, she is obsessed with The Magic School Bus cartoon and books and the teacher, Ms. Frizzle, in the cartoon always says, "Get out there and make some mistakes" or some such thing, which emphasizes my own words that sum up the we-learn-by-making-mistakes approach to life. She takes it all in--over and over and over again--but she doesn't agree.

So, when I correct her behaviour, she quickly points out, "This is MY way of doing something." Frankly, this is fine if she's drawing or creating but not if she's doing something dangerous or unacceptable.

Molly will ask meor her fatherto please use the word "down" if we're going to read the story of The Three Little Pigs to her. I don't see anything wrong with doing so and she doesn't care about losing the rhyme scheme.

Perhaps she'll create computer games one day. Last year, she wanted to be a "brain doctor" or a "muffin maker"—it was all so unclear to her. She tells me these days that she will, in fact, be a doctor; but, no matter how capable she becomes of creating things or of fixing people, the wolf will always blow the house in, and not down or over, as long as she's reading somebody else's work. Life's just like that. Of course, she could decide to write her own version of The Three Little Pigs. . .

 Illustration by Leonard Leslie Brooke. 1904 adaptation. (source: Wikipedia)
*Jacobs, Joseph (1890). English Fairy Tales. Oxford University. pp. 68–72. (source: Wikipedia

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