Tomorrow Frankie and her papa are going to Germany. They'll spend a week in Berlin, visiting Grandma Elke and Jörg's childhood friends, and then another week with Jörg's father in Bremen.
On one of Frankie's first days at Mulberry School, she brought in one of her favorite things for show-and-tell: a tiny replica of the Musicians of Bremen statue, along with a book telling the story. The book is originally German, translated into English. The important part of that sentence is that it is a German book, meaning that, although it is ostensibly a children's book, there were puppies being starved to death and eyes being scratched out and ankles slashed and other similarly edifying terrors involved. In other words, German folk tales are like urban legends for kids: scary, but also with some implied lesson. Even if the lesson is only "life sucks, and then some maniac climbs under your car at a gas station and slices your ankle tendons."
Frankie's teacher usually reads the books that the kids bring in for show-and-tell, and I meant to put a post-it note on the book warning Miss Kim about the high gore factor, allowing her to gracefully bow out of a reading. But it was a busy morning, and we were struggling with trying not to freak the hell out about Annika's resumed G.I. bleeds and quickly deteriorating health, and so I forgot.
When I picked Frankie up from school, I asked her about her day. "It was great!" she gushed, as usual. But then her nose wrinkled a little (in disgust? puzzlement?), "Except Miss Kim read my book wrong! She skipped lots of it."
Frankie's love of the Bremen Musicians' tale is somewhat surprising, given that one of Annika's favorite games to play with her sister is "Scare Frankie Until She Cries, Because That Is Totally Hilarious." Maybe I'm a bad parent for saying so, but sometimes it is Totally Hilarious. Like the time Annika found a 4-inch piece of stray yarn and had Frankie screaming in terror because it was "Haunted String."
It's in my own best interest to keep Annika's FrightFests to a minimum, since I'm the one who has to convince Frankie that there are no stray strings lurking under her bed at night, nor any weird homicidal fruit in the kitchen, and of course (the biggie right now) absolutely no robots anywhere at all (Go here to see why this is the big fear right now, although it is also a fear that makes little Frankie get her groove on. The irresistible urge to dance while simultaneously scared silly only makes the terror more terrifyingly terror-ific.)
In the interest of tear-free bedtimes, I try to intervene when I hear Frankie screaming like the last-standing horror show teen queen during the killer's big, theatrical reveal of her friends' horribly maimed bodies. But, seriously, Germany is not helping me in my struggles to convince Annika that kids' stories should be mostly about rainbows, flowers, and/or sparkly jewels and the fairies, elves, and/or anthropomorphic butterflies who go on non-threatening quests to discover, follow, and/or protect them. Take, for instance, the afternoon I ran upstairs to find Frankie sobbing and wringing her hands like a crazy little Lady MacBeth.
"Frankie! What's wrong?"
"Annika told me a story! And his thumbs were cut off! And there was dripping blood everywhere! And he didn't have any thumbs anymore! And there was so much blood!" [more screams and wailing]
Meanwhile, Annika wanders into the hallway, eyes wide and innocent-looking.
"It's not my fault! It wasn't my story. I was just reading a book to her."
"Annika! We don't have any books with stories about kids getting their fingers cut off!"
But, as it turned out, we did. As a matter of fact, we even had the story in handy board-book format, suitable for teaching even the youngest children the evils of thumb-sucking.
So, Germany, you can send Frankie back to me dressed in a dirndl, humming polkas, and full of outrageously tall cake. But, please, don't tell her any stories about robots.
(Yes, that is a flamingo made out of a fan behind the girls. But that's another story altogether.)