A life of adventure beckons, if only they could get rid of the parents.
Face facts. Your continued existence is what is standing between your child and a life of excitement and challenge.
Yes, that is precisely what I mean: your children fantasise about your death and how wonderful life would be without you
It came to me in a disconcerting flash as I was shuffling through my children's bookshelves in preparation for the next round of present giving - both their birthdays are in February.
It started with Harry Potter.
‘Hmm, lonely little boy under the stairwell at the Dursley's,’ I said to myself as I flicked forward to James and the Giant Peach.
‘James Henry Trotter," I mumbled. "Mum and Dad gobbled up by a rampaging rhinoceros ...’
‘Hang on!’ I thought and went back to the beginning to do a small experiment.All the missing parents
Mum and Dad fried by the bad guys, which is how he came to live with the Dursley's in the first place.James
, as I mentioned: the thing with the rhinoceros.Eragon
.... yes, lives with his uncle Garrow, parents are ... gone? Dead? I can't remember exactly, but he is definitely sans mummy and daddy.
- well the Jungle Book is all about the kid being raised by wolves.Storm Breaker?
Alex Rider lives with his uncle, and if I remember correctly, even the uncle gets the nudge right at the getgo.The Chronicles of Narnia?
Well, those prissy brats are not orphans, maybe, but practically so; living in the country with Professor Digory Kirke to escape the blitz in London. Maximum Ride?
Orphan, scientific experiment, abused, neglected, you name it ... even if a parent is lurking somewhere amongst those who abuse the half-bird half-human girl.Lemony Snicket?
Who could forget the series of unfortunate events that started with the extremely unfortunate burning to death of the parents?
What about a great classic? The Secret Garden. Yes, Mary, Mary was quite contrary and very much an orphan... and neglected before she became one, if I remember correctly.
There is no escaping it. The primary premise of the best children's fiction
is the death of the parents.
I felt quite... miffed, really.
Why must the parents be killed, lost, burned or gobbled up by a rampaging rhinoceros before adventure unfolds? Do my children think they would be better off without me?
I thought about it and couldn't get anywhere, so later that day I asked Jessie (13 going on 14) what he thought was going on.
Now Jesse is mild mannered to a fault. His friends know him as laconic and slightly cynical - likely to be thoughtful and understated.
So I wasn't that surprised when he said, faintly dismissively and without looking up from the book he was reading: ‘Those stories are just fantasies.’
‘Yeah?’ I said, meaning I didn't know what that had to do with it; meaning: why would they want to have a fantasy where the parent is dead.
‘Why a fantasy about the parents dying?’, I asked a little plaintively.
He sighed and put down The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, his school set work.
‘Dad, what do parents do?’ he asked, irritatingly didactic.
I hesitated: pay, organise, discipline
... I didn't know what to pick.
‘They protect...’ I started, but I wasn't really going anywhere with it.
‘They stop things happening!’ Jessie said, with sudden animation. ‘It can never be fun, like fantasy fun, if the parents are around. So the writer makes sure they are not in the way.’
‘That's all. It's just a fantasy,’ he said and picked up his book again and went back to reading.
Perhaps he could hear my churning thoughts as I stared silently into the middle distance, but after a moment he mumbled: ‘The kid wants to feel like the stuff is happening to him - he can't if the parent is there to protect him...’
I get it, I honestly do; just don't ask me to like it or welcome it into my heart.
Do all kids harbour fantasies of getting rid of their parents?