at least it rhymes

One of the roles of motherhood that doesn’t seem to be well defined in parenting books is that of censor.

boy dressed in monk costume

I guess I expected with three boys I would be a referee and frequently blow the whistle on physical fouls.

It is the frequency in which I have to enforce the code of conduct for verbal infractions that surprises me.

There are the easy calls.

The black and white.

The completely inappropriate.

I know them well and they usually include some sort of potty language…literally, toilet talk.

And in my house the especially clever throw in a reference to one’s hindside for good measure.

Oh the joys of motherhood.

But what about the gray areas?   Where does the rule book start and stop?   What is a mother to do about the current popular childhood rhymes?

1. 2. 3. Barney is my enemy.

I myself have suffered from purple dinosaur hate, so my censorship ruling on this one has been to ignore it.

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.
Stick a pencil up your nose.
Pull the trigger.
Let it go.
Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.

OK, I believe the largest infraction here is that it isn’t even clever.   C’mon kids! Show some sense of literary cohesion.   Again, the censor ignores.

Knock.   Knock.
If you don’t play with me.
I will kill your family.

Holy crap!   I am raising serial killers.   And to make it worse, the verse isn’t even catchy.   The censor ruled that the verse was completely inappropriate and a tad bit disturbing.

I was a little frightened when I overheard the last one yesterday.   I watch Law & Order and know where this sing-song extravaganza can lead!


And then my mind wandered to actual nursery rhymes.

And when the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall
And down will come baby cradle and all.

I just feel like the violence in this one is unnecessary.   Why does the bough break?   Why does the cradle need to fall?   The subject matter seems age inappropriate for a baby, but my inner censor would choose to ignore it.

Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick.

First of all, playing with fire isn’t something we sing about in a positive manner. Secondly, where is Jack’s mother? Because of the scarce availability of completing this encouraged activity in my house, no censorship action is necessary.

Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her.
Put her in a pumpkin shell,
There he kept her very well.

The only thing clever about Peter seems to be his ability to make adultery, kidnapping and holding a hostage palatable.   I mean, if you substitute basement for pumpkin shell, Peter would be serving a life sentence.   Talk about raising a serial killer. The censor rules that this verse is completely inappropriate and a tad bit disturbing.

After considering the historical context of my kid’s rhymes, it is clear that I should hold off on the censorship as to not quash the updated edition of A Child’s Garden of Verses.

kids sayMore inappropriate things kids say:

Kids say funny things about marriage

Kids say funny things about world records

Kids say funny things about the library


  1. I remember when I pulled out the nursery rhymes for my kids and was stunned at the literal meanings behind them. But, I also knew it was the sing song-iness they like and pay attention to at that age so I didn’t worry about it too much.

    However, that Peter Peter was a sick, sick man.

  2. I know! I would hate to have him as a next door neighbor…frightening!

    The other one I looked into was Ring around the Rosie since I had heard it was about the plague, but it turns out that might not be true…thankfully :).

  3. I know it… children’s rhymes and stories were born out of an era that was much more dark than the one we are in now. I bet those mom’s would only wish their biggest stresser was whether or not to allow their kids to watch the Disney channel…

  4. LOL. Nursery rhymes are meant to show that not everything in life is peachy. That’s why boughs break & such.

  5. I remember really feeling very disturbed imagining baby falling from a tree.

    And yet, no one else seemed to mind.

    Lori, as hysterical 5-year-old: PEOPLE! Babies are FALLING! Do you hear me? FALLING! FROM TREES! Why is there no PSA for this? Where are the telethon people????

    I was a tad worked up as a child.

    But I’m MUCH better now.

  6. My censorship rule is that if it’s annoying, they can’t say it. I think they’re looking into that whole “Vow of Silence” thing.

  7. My boys have been saying similar rhymes & I have to step in on it. “We don’t talk about shooting people or killing people.”

    Now if they want to sing Jeff Foxworthy’s the Redneck Days of Christmas about picking up table dancers, beer and chewing tobacco at the Wal Mart, that’s ok.

    Cuz, it’s non-violent. 🙂

  8. When my husband started doing nursery rhymes with our daughter- we both felt so bad saying them. So we would make up alternate less scary lyrics. Which made them A) barely rhyme B) Totally suck 🙂

    ps. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

  9. And then in Disney movies the parents are always dead??? What is up with that?

  10. Ok, that does make a little sense…

  11. MUCH better.
    No drama there.
    None at all.

    I call for the PSA’s too…

  12. That should be the rule.
    The end.

  13. That coincides with my belief that if it is truly funny it gets a pass….

  14. You need to post those ASAP!

  15. Oh, I know! There seems to be children in peril in ALL those stories!

  16. I have always been most disturbed by the whole “cradle will fall” thing.

    Also (sort of off topic but kind of not) I’ve been reading about the Tudors and watching the Showtime show — The Tudors — seriously, violence has been around awhile people — why do we act all shocked?

  17. I love this, Holly! I find the censor role rather exhausting. I’ve started to take the approach that unless it a) sickens me or b) disturbs me I leave well enough alone.

    Because apparently we were singing about playing with fire and hiding in pumpkins and crossed our hearts and hoped to die…and we all turned out okay.

    So far….

  18. I will never look at Nursery Rhymes the same again. I never saw them this way. But you are so right they are all serial killer and what the hell was Wrong with Peter The Pumpkin Eater!!!

  19. hahaha! That last one was a little racy for kids, but still funny!

  20. Isn’t it just WRONG???

  21. *keeps fingers crossed*

  22. Yeah, but the more I think about it, that Wee Willie Winkie dellow is really disturbing. I’m fairly certain that he could be arrested for stalking as well as disturbing the peace among other charges. What a perv. Even his name is creepy. He’s got pedophile written all over him.

  23. ugh…Fellow, not dellow. *sigh*

  24. When I painted murals in Alexis’ room before she was born, it was an all nursery rhymes theme. I read the original versions to figure out which ones to include. All I can say is NIGHTMARES. OMG. NIGHTMARES.

  25. The Serial Killer thing is a worry here, too. Glad I’m not alone. Hopefully you won’t have to deal with them coming home and saying…Mommy, I know what the “F” word is…

  26. Totally has happened…I need to find that link for ya. OMG – why can’t they just be raised in a bubble?

  27. My censor-be-darned. It’s my anxiety level that tells me that The Cat in the Hat must be banned. I mean, Holy Shakoly! Kids left alone. Stranger in the house. Trouble-making stranger. Mom coming home and the house is in shambles… Just writing about it makes me tense. I swear! Have to stop now… beginning to hyperventilate.

  28. Oh I know! Isn’t it crazy? I had forgotten about that one.

  29. Phenomenal berakdwon of the topic, you should write for me too!

  30. I was just reading a very old Scholastic book dated 1966 called Hi Diddle Diddle, A Book of Mother Goose Rhymes to Luka last night for bedtime stories. I’ll share:

    The last stanza of “Simple Simon”:
    He went to ride a spotted cow,
    That had a spotted Calf.
    She threw him down upon the ground,
    Which made the people laugh.

    Luka: Hey, that is not very nice that they laughed. He is probably hurt.

    The last stanza of “Sing a Song of Sixpence”:
    The maid was in the garden,
    Hanging out the clothes.
    Along came a blackbird
    And snipped off her nose.

    Luka: What!? She’s bleeding! Is she ok? I’m scared. I don’t think I like this book.

    Last stanza of “As I Went Over the Water”:
    One called me rascal,
    And one called me thief,
    I took up my little black stick
    And knocked out all their teeth.

    Luka: Mom, that’s horrible! I really I hate this book. Everybody is so mean. Why are they mean? This is not a book for babies.

    Next page has Humpty Dumpty and, no lie, the picture is him falling off the wall into a frying pan. A frying pan!


    Next page:
    Why is that mommy in that big shoe spanking all of her children! Why? That is not nice!

    And my favorite:
    Jerry Hall
    He is so small,
    A rat could eat him,
    Hat and all.

    With a picture of a rat eating a small boy.

    Luka bursts out into a full-on hysterical melt-down, grabs the book, and throws it across the room.

    He’s got his own built-in censor obviously. And that Mother Goose, she’s no kind of mother I want anywhere near my kids.

  31. SInce her birth, my hubby has refused to sing my daughter “Rock a bye baby” using the actual words. He prefers:

    Rock a bye baby, on the tree top.
    When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
    When the bough breaks the cradle will fall- and down will FLOAT baby. Cradle and all.

    My daughter believes that the song includes the baby floating softly down from the branch. Where baby lands safely and gently on the ground beside her crib. She acts this interpretation out with her dolls:)

    I believe the changes are for good;)

  32. Tiffany Clark says:

    It just so happens as I am reading this, Jackson is coloring his Wee Willie Winkle page from school. Running through the town in his nightgown, knocking on windows & doors? Where are this kid’s parents?! Yes, “Rock a bye baby” is a very creepy song. I’ve often wondered why we sing this to babies. You could also ask the same question as to why we’ve made Noah’s Ark a sweet children’s story…the story where God kills nearly everyone on earth!

  33. EP Dowdall says:

    Yes, always thought “rock a bye baby” needed a little more explanation. How about this for a simple second verse solution…

    Rock-a-bye baby in the tree top
    If a storm comes the cradle may drop
    Don’t be afraid of all the world’s harms
    I’ll be there to catch you, safe in my arms

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