Lesson from Little Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood was lame! I hadn’t considered that the one in the red hoody had been slower than the rest of the roving targets in the wood possibly contributing to the wolf picking on her.

“Why?” I ask, noting the small person is taking notes and chewing the end of the pencil the way a horse does a fence-post. Theatrical.

Her homework; to write an ‘argument’ about how Red Riding Hood got into so much trouble. I look over her shoulder and read: ‘I believe that LRRH should have known not to speak to strangers especially not a wolf, although if I was little red riding hood I would have spoken to him and if I knew karate I would beet him up.” Nice.

The piano teacher’s droll remark drifts through my head; ‘So much confidence. And so misplaced.”

Annoyed that once again the wolf gets a free pass and the little girl takes the blame for his bad behaviour I suggest that perhaps the wolf is at fault and should be punished as a lesson to other wolves that might get ideas. She looks at me like I’m red riding hood’s even lamer cousin. “ Mum. He’s a wolf. It’s what wolves do.” A pragmatist. She’s going to do better than me in life.

There will be no bitter wailing on the wayside of delusional idealism. I hope this extends in later life to general wolf avoidance rather than trying to change them or sticking round to make them love her.

“Anyway “ she says, “ Red Riding Hood’s Mum should have gone with her. I mean it was nice of her to make the buns and stuff but that doesn’t mean she gets not to go just because she’s busy.” I think of the baking handed over as a free pass not to attend various social events. Guilt flourishes even in the little things. I’m a Mum. It’s what we do.

It’s not the wolf’s fault; continues the wolf’s defence attorney, “The whole hiding the nana in the wardrobe and then dressing up as her – it was a bit over the top. He’s got some problems. Any normal wolf would just eat them both. He didn’t have to get all weird.” Mental illness. Good defence. Late night little girl walkers beware. The thing is, any girl working nights on the rough side of town knows to walk fast, never have hands in pockets and walk like you’ll be a problem if someone tries to deal to you. Mostly you do anything you can not to cop the late night shifts. You certainly don’t wander round smelling the roses with a basket of goodies. Maybe Reddy hadn’t had the rules. “Anyway, Red riding hood saying things like ‘Oh my, what big ears you have,’ is seriously lame and would only wind the wolf up. She should have just left.” I nod. Good point. Don’t go playing psychological games with people who are bigger and scarier than you and who spend their spare time dressed in nana’s nighties. I hide all amusement – the small person is taking this extremely seriously as well she might.

Later, driving home in the early hours after a meeting I see a young grey riding hoodie wandering home by herself. Hands in pockets. Head down. I silently tell her: ‘I know it’s always the wolf’s fault and you have every right to walk here if you want but I’d rather you were tucked up safe in bed. So little lamb, if you’ve got to be out here you’d better grow yourself some wolf skin pretty fast. That – or learn karate'.

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