things that go bump

The other day, I was watching something or other–while waiting on something or other–and happened across an interview Evangeline Lilly (from Lost) gave.  She was promoting her new children’s book, and she made the assertion that children’s books should be scary.

It immediately took me back to a class I took in undergrad.  I think it was one of the seminars we had to take each year–junior, maybe, with the psychologist professor.  I wasn’t a big fan of that class, but the project she assigned stuck with me.

We had to create a children’s book for a group project.  I think (memory sometimes fails) we had to include some sort of diversity element in it.  Being the good students we were, we did some research.  We quickly realized that the world had changed–drastically–since we were children.  A quick review revealed that most of the then-modern writers were tackling some pretty awful subjects. Death, rape–all kinds of way-too-adult topics were fodder for these kids.  It made us all a bit sad, and we decided to write something that hearkened back to more innocent times.  Of course, we somehow forgot what Bambi was about.

I had that same feeling when I heard Evangeline Lilly say that about kids–that kids love to be scared.  And I couldn’t disagree.  When I was 10, my favorite author was Stephen King.

That feeling came from an exposure to a loss of innocence.  Sure–Bambi had death–but it wasn’t really the focus.  It was pretty subtle, even, to my childhood brain.  I remember, as a child, my parents went out of their way to shelter me from outside influences.  Books were my refuge–the only place where the fairy tale existed for me.  In the land of books, I could be anything.  I was safe.  I didn’t see many movies or listen to much music.  I read books.  And I’m SO grateful for that.

But the darkness still got through, and luckily, those parents taught me to handle life.  I’d been living a pretty dark existence most of my childhood, so it’s no wonder I connected so strongly to stories of death and destruction.  I was living that life, for as long as I can remember.

We all want to remember the past as a more innocent time.  And, in some ways, I’m sure it was.  But there was cruelty and darkness then.  People died then, too.  In some ways, it was worse because people were even less inclined to discuss taboos.  My family was never like that–at least not my parents.  I always knew about everything.  Every dark landscape and crevice that existed was part of my playground.  I grew up way too young, and I mourn the childhood I never got to have.  Part of me wishes I had been protected more, and part of me is so grateful I wasn’t.  Still, I can’t help but be overwhelmingly sad when I realize most kids these days have seen even more than I did–even if they haven’t lost people directly.

We can’t protect them from all these things–as sad as that is.

I don’t know that I agree with Evangeline Lilly.  The indignant child in me wants to rant about protecting the kids of this world and giving them as much innocence as you can–for as long as you can.  But the survivor in me rants back that kids need to know about the darkness in life so they can handle it later.  I don’t know who’s right.

It just feels sad to me that too many kids grow up too soon.  But I want them to have a vocabulary for living in the world that exists–and not the one I wish was here.

But I guess–I’m really just grieving for myself and the innocence I never had.


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