The Dark Side of Nursery Rhymes


My daughter likes when I sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider, but the thirtieth time I sang about the arachnid climbing up the water spout again I started analyzing the song. I suppose it  teaches  the young to persevere and not to give up no matter how much the rain knocks you down, but it also encourages her to do futile tasks over and over again without putting any thought into what she’s doing.

Then there’s One Two Buckle my shoe. Starts off pleasantly enough, you don’t want to trip because your shoe isn’t fastened.

Three Four shut the door. I guess that’s good to remember if you have the air conditioning running and you don’t want your bill going sky high.

Five Six pick up sticks. What? Why?

Seven eight. set them straight.

Nine Ten, Do it again.  Oh no this gets her ready to be a member of the work force. Doing her nine to five with a smile on her face.

Our evolved thoughts on the evils of slavery got rid of a favorite from my childhood, Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care. My master’s gone away.

Weird that all the way in 1983 my kindergarten teacher had us singing those words (especially since she was Black).

But there’s still definitely a theme of conformity and obedience that percolates through the spines of most of the nursery rhymes. It makes sense to want your kid to do what you say, but brainwashing breeds rebellion and even if it doesn’t I’d like to be aware of what I’m brainwashing her about. But then I remembered one song that must have been written by long haired hippies.

Row row row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream.

That’s a message I can get behind, Relax and enjoy yourself. Don’t be in such a rush. Nothing really matters and the only destination we’re all going to reach is death.  Jeez, that’s depressing too.

No wonder we’re all messes. Mother Goose did a psychological number on us all.


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