Friday, October 08, 2010

Reflections: The Velveteen Rabbit

I clearly alternate between pacifying the child in me and the nagging “adult” in me. The grown-up me disapproves of my affinity towards fantasy and the innocence of childhood. She tries to slap me hard to wake up and be alert to reality, and stop slipping into an escapist world. But  the voice of “reason” in me (boy, I have so many voices and people in me!) sagely argues that I deserve some reprieve every now and then - for every ten spoons of the reality medicine, I’m allowed one sip of the fantasy elixir. It recharges me completely and sends in a volley of optimism to course through my veins and neurons. So, after such monologues I read this adorable book which I’d been wanting to read for years now, but was censured by you know who.

The velveteen rabbit is a toy stuffed with sawdust, and with black beads to mark its eyes. It wonders whether toys are real, and if they will ever become as real as the Real people outside the nursery. A wise old horse says it rests on how much the child loves a toy. The more the child loves his toy, the more shabby it becomes with playing and cuddling, the more real it becomes. The adorable little book tells the story of the velveteen rabbit’s encounter with the magic of love.

I’ve made a decision after reading this book. This will be the first story that I will tell my child, and the first book that I will gift. To most, this might sound silly after reading the book. There isn’t anything so profound in this that a child absolutely should learn. It’s all fantasy and cute, but really nothing educative. I quip, “So what?”. It teaches a child how to treat his/her toys. It helps them associate some value to them, rather than take them for granted as their replaceable treats. It also teaches them about the magic of love and genuine affection.

When I was growing up as an only (introverted, shy) specimen, toys and dolls were my world of comfort and companionship. I truly believed they were real. I treated them with such care, assumed they were capable of feeling pain and hurt, and winced and threw a fit if someone lifted them upside down or yanked them by dragging their ears. For some reason, I believe all of those silly sentiments did help me foster feelings such as compassion and affection, even if I didn’t interact enough with the outside world.

Theories on Play Therapy demonstrate the significance of play-time. The kinds of interactions a child has with his/her toys speak volumes about their inner growth. Children learn subtle values and lessons, they bond, release their stress and find solace in the nature of their play things. And stories such as this (and movies such as Toy Story), however romantic and fantastical they maybe, still carry endearing messages to children - even if it’s just to smear a bit more innocence on them. And I think kids these days really need to be made to retain their innocence a bit longer!

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