The Amazon reviews might have said, "A True American Classic" and "Whimsical and Amusing," but I found myself having to explain more and more to my boys, and even getting a little shocked at this book set in rural Vermont in the 1920's.
Here's how it went:
Me: See, in the old days, parents used to spank their kids with a leather strap or belt.
Kids: (Eyes huge) Parents can't do that now, right?
Me: Well, they probably shouldn't. And also, sometimes, when you went to school, the teacher could spank you or hit you with a ruler.
Kids: (Eyes huge)
Me: And sometimes, a neighbor could spank you if you made the neighbor mad, or they could just grab your head and shake it hard.
Me: It was the old days. And evidently the school nurse--they had school nurses in the old days too--used to have to check your head for lice every day and ask you if you pooped. "Moved your bowels" is the way they said poop in the old days.
Me: In the old days, little boys used to carry knives. You are not to carry a knife.
Me: Please don't ever stick bugs up someone's nose, and you probably shouldn't tie people to trees either. And you should NEVER tie a rope around someone's neck. Ever!
Me: I can't believe I'm reading this to you! You are not to carve out acorns to make pipes, ok? I can't believe I just read about how a 10 year old boy learns to make his own pipe and smoke!
Me: (Self-editing on the fly so I don't have to say, "The old man told Ally Tidwell that it was alright to put a stone in the middle of a tinfoil ball and cheat old Diskin, because it wasn't really so bad to cheat a Jew." Not doing a good job at self-editing.)
I was somehow under the impression that I was raising free range children. I let them explore and play outside until dark and make up games and climb trees and get dirty. But I make them wear helmets when they ride bikes and insist that they treat others kindly and definitely not smoke! And what kind of idiot would give a 10 year old boy a pocket knife? If he accidentally brought it to school, he could get kicked out.
It's easy to romanticize the old days, but when I think about all the spanking and pipe smoking 10 year olds, and the idea that it was OK to cheat someone because of their religion or heritage, I think I'll take the politically correct 21st century.
On the other hand, I am getting tired of all the knee-jerk reactions society has to issues big and small that bring about Rules For Safety that end up limiting most everyone and only ever provide an illusion of safety.
Can't we have a good old fashioned bake sale where moms actually make baked goods instead of being required to purchase store bought, prepackaged garbage?
Let's get our kids Pen Pals (and not just in the classroom down the hall) and make them write actual letters, with pens. On paper!
Don't ban paper airplanes at school. Has anyone EVER had their eye poked out from a paper airplane?
What else should we bring back?