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Very Adult Lessons from Beloved Children’s Books

These books for children aren’t fairy tales, but being open to their guidance as adults may make you a bit happier about your continuing journeys.

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Once upon a time, parents read their millennial children stories to help them fall asleep, and to teach them about the world that they were growing up in.

At the time, these books gave us warnings about trusting strangers with very big teeth, and how pathological lying can prove fatal. Honesty and caution are important road marks for any responsible adult to follow, but even seemingly silly stories have their own pieces of advice to share. These books may not be fairy tales, but being open to their guidance as adults may make us a bit happier about our continuing journeys through adulthood.

 

REAL LOVE MAKES US “REAL” PEOPLE from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
At first glance, the stuffed rabbit a young boy receives as a Christmas present is not much to look at. It doesn’t move on its own, and seems rather old-fashioned. The rabbit knows that the only way he can become real to the little boy is through the boy’s love for the stuffed animal. The rabbit sees little hope in becoming real, until he takes the place of another toy lost in the nursery. From then on, the boy and the rabbit are inseparable, that is, until the boy becomes very ill. All the toys and bedding in the nursery must be burned to prevent the disease from spreading, and as the velveteen rabbit mourns the end of his life with his beloved boy, a fairy appears and leads him to the forest to be with the real-life rabbits.

Truly, there is nothing as powerful as love. Not just the word love, or crushes, or lust, but real, genuine, unconditional love. This is the love from family, friends, mentors, and partners that can be life-changing. It transforms us into who we are meant to be.

YOUR OPPORTUNITIES ARE (STILL) ENDLESS from Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
A common, yet thoughtful, gift for any graduate, the last book to be published while the author was still living is one of his most inspiring. The unnamed character in Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is leaving town and comes upon “The Waiting Place” (where people wait for things to happen) along their journeys. But the narrator makes it clear that the protagonist can go anywhere he chooses.

This lesson should not be reserved for those taking on new careers, or graduating high school or college. You can change your direction any time you want! It is never too late to embark on a new path.

EVERYONE HAS TO GROW UP from The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
Even Christopher Robin’s time in the Hundred Acre Wood has to come to an end. It seems Piglet, Pooh, Eeyore, and Christopher Robin are all aware of this reality, and in the final chapter of a book full of adventures, Christopher Robin’s friends throw him a farewell party.

Growing up can be painful. A person leaves behind all the things he or she has known about the world, and who they have been to this point. Responsibilities can be overwhelming, and life is no longer as simple as visiting old friends. But as The House at Pooh Corner comes to a close, Pooh promises never to forget his friend Christopher Robin. We should never forget the places we have been, and the wonderful memories we made while we learning to grow up.

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MATERIAL THINGS from How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
Sure, it’s a holiday favorite, but at the heart of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the reminder that material things cannot make you happy, and being miserable hurts no one but yourself.

In this day and age, it is easy to see what we do not have, and compare ourselves to others. But does owning the latest iPhone give us anything but a fleeting sense of satisfaction? It wasn’t about the presents or trees in Whoville. Despite our collective desire to have it all, this is one lesson we should keep in our hearts all year long.

OUR DAMAGES DO NOT MAKE US WORTHLESS from Corduroy by Don Freeman
Lonely and perched on a department store shelf, Corduroy is spotted by a young girl, Lisa, whose mother refuses to buy him because of a missing button on his overalls. Corduroy searches the store for the long-lost button, but to no avail. To his surprise, Lisa comes back into the store the next day without her mother, and purchases him with her own money. Once they arrive home, she sews a button on his clothing, happy to have found a friend.

Our shortcomings and scars do not make us less worthy of love and friendship. They may teach us painful lessons, but people who truly care for us will take the time to make us feel safe again. Knowing you are worthy of such love helps to stitch those lost pieces back together again.

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