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why fairytales are best left to bedtime

I blame Cinderella. She married a prince and lived happily ever after. How convenient. As a result, lots of little girls grew up thinking they would end up with a prince too. But in real life, of course, unless you're Kate Middleton, this option is a non-runner. There are just not enough handsome princes to go around.

Having said that, I think reading, and especially reading to children, is terribly important. But fairy tales can be misleading. Cinderella definitely got my hopes up when I was younger and I did believe in happily ever after. But as an adult I lost a fancy shoe on at least a couple of nights out and no prince on a white horse showed up to rescue me, what's more it was hard enough trying to get a taxi to take me home!

Stories for boys are more practical and their little heads aren't filled with romantic notions. Take Bob the Builder, for example. He is practical and very hard-working. Bob wears a hat and has a set of tools and no problem is ever too big for him. He is such a positive role model, too.

Myself and my son, Gary, tend to meet Bob a lot. We live near a Spar shop which is full of Bob look-alikes at lunch-time, buying their rolls and wearing their workmen overalls. But we were even down the country the other day and Gary said hello to a Bob who was driving a tractor. Bob doesn't wait around for somebody to give him a happy life. No way. He's a down-to-earth chap.

Fireman Sam is another fine fellow. He rescues people in need, and is always positive. My son spots Sam a lot up at the fire station in Donnybrook, and if he hears his siren on the street he gives the fire engine a wave. Postman Pat is another trouper. He's always cheerful come rain, hail or snow. Even his cat is happy. These characters are great role models for little boys.



lazy

When I was little I read Sleeping Beauty but I don't think she was somebody to aspire to. In fact, looking back, she was a bit lazy lying in bed all day. And Beauty and the Beast was so misleading. In real life beasts don't turn into handsome princes and neither do frogs. And even if a handsome prince did come along would he want a lazy freeloader who had spent her life lying in bed? I doubt it.

Sam, Bob and Pat are much more realistic. Sometimes I look at little girls the same age as my son, and hope they won't be let down in life. One little girl I know has a pink and purple dress, a silver tiara, and a throne to sit in. She told Gary that she might invite him over to her palace one day. Mind you, with yellow high-viz jacket and his toy tools stuck in his belt, he might look out of place.