Why I Am a Nursery Rhyme Social Worker

In the recent revelations about abuse, I think we all have become more aware of unhealthy situations. At least I hope so. I know that my brain has learned to notice abuse in the strangest of places.

The other day I was looking for one particular nursery rhyme, and came across There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. I read the nursery rhyme, and was shocked by the last line. I had not remembered the Old Woman whipping her children every night and putting them to bed.

In light of this new awareness, [quote button_text=”Tweet the Quote”] I have decided to become a nursery rhyme social worker.[/quote]

Here’s the nursery rhyme I am referencing:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

To do my job thoroughly, I needed to consider what stressors the Old Woman might be facing.

Stressor Number One . . . Menopause

If she was described as an “old woman,” I’m pretty sure she had either gone through or was in the throes of menopause. You know, those months when our nurturing side dries up and blows away. Menopause leads us gently on a behavioral journey where we go from, “Welcome to Munchkinland” to “Screw you, and your little dog, too.”

Living in a shoe with a plethora of small children AND experiencing menopause would be too much for anyone. Heck, I lost it yesterday because a man cut in front of me in line at Cracker Barrel.

Stressor Number Two . . . She lived in a shoe. A shoe.

My family didn’t have much money through most of my childhood. We moved a lot, and many of our early houses averaged about 800 square feet. We lived in a house with plywood kitchen cabinets covered in “wood-grain” contact paper. Before I was born, my parents and older sister lived in a log cabin infest by rats.

So we are familiar with digs that aren’t so grand.

But  I remember the smell of my brother’s shoes during the puberty years. He would walk in a room, sit on the couch, and cause a panic by leaning towards his shoe laces.

“Please, please, don’t take them off,” my sister and I would beg. “We’ll make you a snack if you will keep your shoes on. We’ll clean your room. Please, just leave them on.”

He would take them off slowly, watching our faces and laughing as we gagged. If a nursery rhyme realtor showed me a shoe as a possible place to live, I would run the other direction.

Stressor Number Three . . . She was a carbohydrate addict.

Since the old woman gave her kids broth without any bread, I can only imagine that she was saving the bread for herself. She was addicted to carbs. Not having much money, I’m sure she had to take carbs where she could find them.

As a woman who usually keeps a bag of M&M’s in her refrigerator door, I get it. On days when I realize the bag is empty, I have been known to pull condiments out of place to try and find old M&Ms that might have fallen from the bag.

She needs the bread. Let her have the bread.

My Nursery Rhyme Social Worker Recommendation

The woman is old, carb-addicted, and living in a shoe. I say we do her a favor and remove her children from the shoe. Let her have hot flashes, eat her bread, and move on to another accessory.

Or, we can rewrite the rhyme as was done by Marjorie Ainsworth Decker who published The Christian Mother Goose Book in 1978:

There was an old woman
Who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children,
And loved them all, too.
She said, “Thank you Lord Jesus,
For sending them bread.”
Then kissed them all gladly
and sent them to bed.

Ah, the power of spin.