Monday, November 12, 2012
There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe
"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed."
She sounds pretty awful, doesn't she? This nursery rhyme has always made me think of my grandmother (who had ten children of her own, plus two stepdaughters, and was super-strict). When I was little, I thought that she was cold and unloving and even a little scary, even if I couldn't adequately express my feelings. Now, though, even though I have "just" one kiddo, I'm beginning to understand. Let's break it down:
Was woman in the nursery rhyme really old? Define old. If she had small children, she was still of childbearing age. Most likely, it was the stress of having so many kids to take care of and not having enough time to take care of herself that caused her to look older. You notice that there is no mention of a husband in the rhyme. Did he leave? Die? Those kids had to come from somewhere.
Did she really live in a shoe? Maybe her house was in the shape of a shoe? She probably had to do renovations herself. If you had to add on to your house without being able to use a professional, what would your house look like?
She had so many children she didn't know what to do--that one speaks for itself! She didn't know how to take care of all of them; she didn't know how to get everything done; she didn't know how to take care of herself.
Broth without any bread, huh? When did she have time to make bread? Or go to the market to buy any? Did she even have enough money to afford bread?
She whipped them all and put them to bed: my guess is that by the end of the day, she couldn't take any more, but the kids were still wound up (probably complaining of hunger). She still had work to do and needed time, space, and quiet to get it done before starting the whole process over the next day.
One thing I don't get, though: why didn't she put the (older) kids to work?!