I’ve been reading the first Winnie-the-Pooh book with my son, who’s about to go into preschool. I’ve been chuckling through the old memories of Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit’s front door, and when Eeyore loses his tail…(just nod along if you don’t know what I’m talking about)…
And then we got to the chapter where Kanga and her son Roo show up. I had no memory of this chapter. Kanga and Roo are Different, you see. The other animals are uncomfortable.
“…then, suddenly, we wake up one morning and, what do we find? We find a Strange Animal among us. An animal of whom we have never even heard before! An animal who carries her family about with her in her pocket! Supposed I carried my family about with me in my pocket, how many pockets should I want?”
“Sixteen,” said Piglet.
Rabbit comes up with a plan to get rid of her: they’ll kidnap her kid.
I was horrified. Um, that’s terrorism. Should I read this to my son? What kind of example is this for interacting with people who Aren’t Like Us? Living overseas as we do, we try to be balanced when we talk about similarities and differences between people groups. This wasn’t balanced.
‘Well,’ I thought to myself, ‘let’s keep reading; I’m sure Christopher Robin will step in and teach them a lesson.’
He totally didn’t. They kidnap her kid…and once they do, they realize how delightful they both are. How smart. How funny. How likeable despite their differences.
I aspire to this kind of writing. Milne doesn’t judge either party for their feelings. Different can be scary. He doesn’t condemn that. Neither does he send in the grownups to fix it all. Because that’s real life, right? He tells a real story that doesn’t moralize, but it does have an opinion. One I happen to share…and now, so does my kid. Powerful stuff.
I don’t know if it’s comforting or not that we have the same problems we had in 1926.