How to banish Grandma-bashing in fairy tales


There’s a wealth of modern literature that today’s parents and grandparents can share with the children in their lives. These stories are uplifting and colorfully illustrated, often with a moral or life lesson tucked in.

But if you’re ever tempted to read the classic old fairy tales or nursery rhymes to your kids or grandkids, beware. Abandonment, neglect, even murder – these bedtime stories are terrifying. Also, parents and grandparents look particularly bad in many of them.

Sometimes the mother is dead at the outset of the tale (Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast) and the father, if there is one, is spineless and easily manipulated by an evil second wife.

Meanwhile, grandmothers are portrayed as old and weak. And I suspect the witches in many of these tales are really grandmas who’re overwhelmed by boisterous children they can’t discipline because they don’t want to get crosswise with the parents.

How about we give everyone a break by bringing a few of these twisted tales into the 21st century?

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

In the original, the old woman has “so many children, she doesn’t know what to do” so she beats them all soundly and sends them to bed without supper. Horrible parenting, yes. But clearly, she’s at her wit’s end. And who’s to say the story hasn’t been exaggerated? What if she served them a nice economical supper of broccoli and beans, and they simply refused to eat it?

Here’s my version: the old woman, who runs a daycare for her grandchildren and other kids of working parents, realizes one day that she’s been living in a vintage Nike. So she flips it – replaces the sole with an updated material and buys new laces. She puts the renovated shoe on the market and it sells right away to an NBA basketball star who loves its generous square “footage.”

The woman (must we keep calling her old?) takes her windfall and builds a giant estate (in the shape of a house, not a shoe), with plenty of room for all of the children she cares for. Once she hires some household help she’s in a much better mood, and becomes known for the lavish suppers she serves her charges. Mandatory nap times become a thing of the past and she allows her well-fed children to substitute creative play for mid-day sleep.

Little Red Riding Hood

In this classic, the grandmother is dispatched early on, eaten by a wolf while Red is picking flowers and dawdling instead of delivering her basket of food. Apparently Grandma was too weak to put up much of a fight. And the little girl didn’t see much difference between her grandmother and the hairy wolf impersonator. All it took to fool Red was a lace cap.

In my version, the wolf knocks on the door of grandma’s cottage, but instead of getting passively eaten grandma uses her kick-boxing training to beat the crap out of him till he skulks away. When the girl gets there, her grandmother scolds her soundly for being so gullible, and they spend the rest of morning together going over how to act when confronted by wolves and other types of Stranger Danger. Grandma also teaches her granddaughter some basic self-defense moves.

Hansel and Gretel

Here’s a more believable tale: Hansel and Gretel are pint-sized terrors who drive their poor parents crazy with their wild behavior. When these unruly kids stumble upon a kindly old woman’s candy-bedecked cottage in the forest, they immediately begin snacking on it without waiting for permission.

Soon the children are on a wild sugar high, and they break into the woman’s house and find all sorts of goodies – spun-sugar “gems” and fondant “pearls” – which they also stuff into their mouths. By the time their parents find them, the children are doubled over with stomach aches and they’ve wreaked major property damage.

The old woman is irate and demands the children rebuild her cottage. The chagrined parents agree. So every day after school, Hansel and Gretel trek to the forest to work on home repairs, baking fresh sheets of gingerbread siding and whipping up batches of sugar plaster to reattach the gumdrop and candy cane trim.

The children aren’t allowed to eat any of the building materials, so they call the woman a mean old witch and concoct a story about her trying to bake them in an oven to eat them. That’s a whopping lie —the old woman’s really a vegetarian with a major sweet tooth. But like the shredded coconut thatch on the cottage roof the story sticks, passed on by word of mouth till the Brothers Grimm finally publish it.

There you have it, three classic tales modernized. These stories may not be as dramatic, but at least the grandmothers aren’t weak, evil or cruel.

And that should help everybody sleep better at night.


Image: Wikimedia Commons




Like everyone else in the universe, grandmothers know that they must exercise if they want to stay healthy as they get older. (FYI, “older” is always at least 10-15 years out from your current age, no matter how old you are.)

But if you have a schedule that’s packed with paid or volunteer work, caring for grandchildren, and just the many tasks that seem to fill our waking hours, how do you make time for fitness?

Welcome to Grannercize, the grandchild work-out.

Yes, taking care of your grandchildren can double as an exercise routine. In fact, it often happens without you even realizing it. That’s why you’re so exhausted when the kids finally go home.

Here are some exercises I find myself doing while caring for my grand-daughter. I’ll bet you can adapt them to your workout routine, too:

Squats. Just for fun, count the number of times you have to get down to your grandkids’ eye-level to communicate with them or prevent a mishap. Trust me, your average gym rat with his 10-20 reps will look like a piker compared to you.

Lunges. See if you can pull whatever that is the baby’s picked up before it makes it into her mouth. Do it quickly, but remember not to overextend your knees – keep them over your ankles. And try to switch legs occasionally, if you can stop panicking long enough.

Dead lifts. Pick up the baby, put down the baby. Repeat a couple of dozen times a day. Lift with your knees or your back will hurt in places you forgot you had by the next day.

Weight lifting. Children gain weight at an amazing rate when they’re young. And so do their car seats, diaper bags, strollers, toy boxes and other paraphernalia – at least it seems that way. Watch your biceps grow as you lug the kids and their stuff around your place. (Bonus points if you have stairs.)

Treadmill. The repetitive nature of this device, once used for prisoners and now eagerly sought out at your local gym, can be duplicated by the endless bending down and picking up of food and utensils that get thrown from a high chair by your grandchild.

Incidentally, if you’re going to be using a high chair a lot, it pays to invest in a dog. Dogs do an excellent job of keeping the area under the chair free of food. They don’t mind soggy crumbs or pre-digested bits, either. And dogs are endlessly entertaining for children, who’ll undoubtedly start to toss food overboard just to see the dog gobble it up.

Fitball or balance ball. An easy-to-duplicate exercise. All you have to do is try to stay vertical when you trip on a toy while carrying your precious grandchild or an armful of laundry. You’ll be wobbling and trying to right yourself with the best of them.

Relay race. Can you grab the kid like a baton and make it to the bathroom in time? Unfortunately there’s no hand-off, but there are fun consequences if you lose this one.

Army crawl. You can get the benefits of this boot-camp favorite by getting down on the floor and crawling on your elbows along with the baby. Babies love it; your knees not so much.

Elliptical.  Roll your hips while you push a stroller uphill. You’ll be sweating and panting in no time.

And, of course, there’s always running in place. That’s pretty much how I remember my years parenting two active boys.

There you have it. Get a thorough work-out without leaving your home environs or following an exercise video. Just another way grandkids keep you young!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons