Hansel and Gretel, a fairy tale for tired children and parents
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a little family who lived in a small house near a large wood. Dad and mom were loggers and had two children: a boy, Hansel, and a girl, Gretel. Unfortunately, they were very poor, and the parents did not know how to manage the family.
Perhaps in these days or even other times, in the past, we felt just like this: deficient , full of needs, really hardly able to provide life, the needs of our children .
We felt discouraged and asked ourselves how we could carry on with our work commitments , home management, our personal troubles, needs for friendships, affections, social recognition, then as a couple and finally the needs and requests of the children , all our load particularly now that they are always closed with us in the cottage.
All parents, in this period, are trying to follow their children’s study commitments, their requests for entertainment, their needs for comfort, security, information, orientation, search for meaning, their difficulties in managing a wide range of Dysphoric emotions (anger, discontent, boredom, sadness, melancholy, uncertainty, fear …). Life in the cottage goes on with effort and conflicts that are difficult to manage .
One night my father and mother were so worried that they could not sleep, until the woman proposed abandoning the children in the woods the next day.
Maybe a surrender is needed. Organized, meditated, or even abrupt. We can’t take it anymore. We try to leave our children mentally for a small period of time, or space. We must withdraw our intervention. Let’s see what happens.
Hansel had heard everything from his bed. Then he waited for his parents to fall asleep and then went to the door, which he found open, went out and went to get two handfuls of river pebbles.
Here, when our help fails, children find unknown resources in themselves. Don’t be afraid, it’s a fairy tale! They are invented characters and everything happens in fantasy , but it outlines a path. Then it also ends well. Let’s see how it’s done.
In the meantime, let’s go over it and tell it to our children, who probably have sometimes heard that we couldn’t take it anymore and that therefore they are confronted with the fear of abandonment .
The fairy tale traces a possible path to a happy ending.
Hansel, the boy, goes out at night and fetches the pebbles from the river. He performs a very courageous action, defying common prohibitions (leaving the house alone, in secret, in the middle of the night …) and collects the stones, which were probably the things he played with most often. It counts as: “calls together all his energies and resources to cope with the emergency of being left without help from adults”.
The following morning the parents took the children to the woods, lit a large fire and told them to stay there waiting for them, while they would collect the wood. Little by little he spent the whole day and night fell, and the parents had never returned.
This section could represent how our children can perceive us , how, on some occasions, they can feel abandoned in treason . It is not said that this experience actually corresponds to the treatment we have given them, but it could be that they feel betrayed because, naively, as is typical of very young children, they may have believed in our omnipotence, in our ability to always meet their needsinstead, sooner or later the moment comes when they experience the frustration of their desires, even simply because of the gap between desire and reality. They can then attribute malicious intentions to us, living our lack of availability, even if momentary, as a spite against which they will feel anger.
When the moon came up, however, Hansel and Gretel were able to see the pebbles left along the way, and following them they found their way home. The parents in seeing them safely were happy and embraced them.
Here we explain how children manage to return to a state of well-being with their parents: by sharpening their eyesight they can find the traces left when they were in their company. For children who experience a sense of loneliness and abandonment, it is essential to find the signs left to make up for the memory in moments of security and closeness already experienced.
Finding the pebbles left to mark the path by them personally, that is finding in the mind the experience of comfort and warmth, rather than obtaining immediate satisfaction to their needs as they would expect.
And when they come home they can find parents who are welcoming and benign again.
For a while the life resumed as before in the house, but soon they were all cornered again, and the parents again decided to abandon their children, taking them, this time, further into the woods. For the second time Hans heard everything, but he couldn’t pick up the pebbles near the riverbank that same night because I found the door closed. The next morning, then, when the mother offered each child a slice of bread Hansel did not eat his own, but he hid it in a pocket and along the way, while he went with the family in the woods, he dropped some behind crumbs of bread to mark the path.
How familiar this gesture will sound to your children, as it is common for many of them to try to keep some food in their pocket, to be able to dispose of it at will at another time and not to feel the sense of depending on someone who will not be able to satisfy immediately their wishes!
It is an illusory solution, of course, we must all learn to live with the sense of need and also with the frustrations that interdependence in emotional relationships entails. The impatience of the children is represented in the fairy tale by the birds that eat all the crumbs.
Again the parents left the children alone in the woods and then did not return to pick them up. Hansel then searched for the crumbs to find his way, but he didn’t find one because the birds had eaten them. So the children suffered from the cold and hunger, all alone, until following a bird they found themselves in front of a spectacular little house all made of delights: marzipan walls, chocolate roof, sugary decorations, etc. They began to eat as much as I can. but then they discovered that it had all been devised by a witch, who imprisoned them ‘and aimed to feed herself on them.
Here is how children see us: wonderful, fantastic delights that could welcome and satiate them forever but in reality they are only deceptions of wicked witches who do not want their good, on the contrary, they want to swallow them! This is what they feel, their furious whims are explained, those claims and protests that seem irreducible!
The turning point that allows a happy ending is when Hansel and Gretel manage to tolerate sacrifices, tasks, even a little immobility for a while (the boy is imprisoned), but then they find a way to cook the witch, and not they eat, because they have become able to invent themselves, organize themselves with all their resources and abilities, they no longer depend in such a childish way on a mother who fully satisfied them by breastfeeding them as if they were very young … and in fact they get rather the treasures that will allow them, a once back home, to find a new, lasting family well-being.
The other part of the coin is that parents, after allowing their children to prove their abilities by renouncing to always meet their needs in everything, rested, welcome their children with open arms, and this conciliation coincides with the discovery and enhancement of treasures that children themselves bring, with their uniqueness, the richness of their affections and the precious skills they develop day by day.