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Children and Responsibility

Nov. 14, 2013


I think that there is a unique lesson to be learned by the dilemma posed when one examines the story of Little Bo-Peep. Ms. Bo-Peep, as you no doubt know, was little, which indicates that she was probably pre-adolescent. Some one – probably her parents (who owned the sheep) – entrusted her with their care. I am quite sure you recall the story, but I wish to explore it further.

The poem states that Little Bo-Peep lost her sheep, and can't tell where to find them. As the word “them” indicates the plural, Ms. Bo-Peep seems to have been entrusted with several sheep. How can a small child be given the task of taking care of many sheep?

Sheep are raised for fleece, meat (lamb), and milk. The ewe weighs between 99 – 220 pounds, while the ram comes in between 99 – 350 pounds. How can the little girl control these large animals? The responsibility must have been staggering. It is hard to fathom how a young girl could endure the pressure.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Ms. Bo-Peep apparently did not like being a shepherdess. She let the sheep go. She claimed they were lost. But how do you lose 600 pounds of meat? The poem goes on to say that she left them alone, believing they will come home, wagging their tails behind them. But the literature does not indicate that the sheep ever came home. Bo-Peep apparently had no intention of retrieving the sheep. She essentially told the sheep to get lost. There is no acknowledgment of her misdeed, or any repentance on her part.

Compare Ms. Bo-Peep's behavior with that of Mary, who had a little lamb, whose fleece was white as snow. Everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go. It even followed her to school one day. Mary liked her lamb, and the lamb liked her. People used to laugh and shout. Mary's ego reached new heights. She became a real sheeplover. I would not be surprised if Mary found the sheep “lost” by Little Bo-Peep. In my assiduous research, I have discovered no evidence that Mary returned the sheep to Mr. and Mrs. Bo-Peep.

In conclusion, different children take responsibility in different ways. Anyone doubting the veracity of this statement is guilty of wooly thinking.

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