One of the best things about having kids is that you get to relive your own childhood. I get to sit around playing with Barbies and My Little Ponies and, best of all, I get to read my favorite children’s books.
A few nights ago, my daughter chose to read The Little Red Hen. It was one of my favorites as a kid, so I was happy to give it to my daughter to read. The thing is, now that I’m older, the story takes on a whole new meaning. The story is about a hen who finds a grain of wheat. She decides to plant it, harvest it, take it to the mill to be made into flour, and then make bread. She keeps asking her neighbors – a duck, a goose, a cat, and a pig – to help her, but they famously answer, “Not I!” to her requests. Each time they let her down, she responds, “Then I will do it myself.”
To some, it might seem like a simple story of the importance of hard work. But I saw it differently this time around. The four other animals, all who are basically portrayed as male, refuse to help the Little Red Hen, despite her many polite requests for assistance. Does she complain? Nope. She very calmly asserts her own independence and does the work herself. The end of the story is what sells it. Once the bread is baked, she asks who would like to help her eat the bread. Of course, the duck, the goose, the cat, and the pig ALL want to eat the bread – who doesn’t love freshly baked bread? But the Little Red Hen doesn’t just sit back and let her hard work be taken advantage of. She replies, “No, I will eat it myself.”
And that’s exactly what she does.
You go, girl!
I realize that I am reading way, way, way too much into this, but after some of the things my daughter has been reading, this was refreshing. Part of being an English major back when I was in college was looking at literature of all kinds in many different ways. So I will look at this story as not just a parable about the rewards of working hard and the downfalls of being a slacker, but a beautiful tale about one female who lived life on her own terms. Long live the Little Red Hen!
Just wait until I get to Dr. Seuss . . .