What will they watch in grade 3 — The Exorcist?
I’m trying not to be a helicopter mother. Honest to god, I really am. I know that children are resilient and that they are best protected by letting them face challenges and learn things on their own. I know that, really and truly I do.
But every hand-wringing blog I read about the endangered species free-range kid rings false. Because parents like me are not trying to protect their kids from skinned knees and playground squabbles and the boredom of an unstructured afternoon. We are trying to protect their right to be children in the first place.
Today, I had to protect that right against a second-grade art teacher with a Halloween project. My daughter’s public school has a fine arts mission, so her teacher clearly cannot limit herself to the pumpkin-and-black-cat theme pack. She decided that her budding artistes should tackle Frankenstein. Not the green-skinned, goofily grinning illustration on trick-or-treat bags, but the 1931 movie with Boris Karloff considered by critics like Don Druker to be “one of the most deservedly famous and chilling horror films of all time“.
Full disclosure: My daughter is not exactly the most courageous consumer of popular culture. When she was four, we had to sit next to her when she watched Dora the Explorer so she would not be spooked by “Swiper, no swiping.” I am sure that there were kids in her class who saw no further than the clumsy shuffling of a low-tech movie monster in platform shoes and went home no worse for wear. But my daughter and several of her friends spent a good part of the afternoon crying over the movie and I spent a good part of the night dealing with her fear. (Fear and sleep will always be issues in this house.)
My daughter couldn’t really tell me much about what she saw in the YouTube clips the teacher showed. At the mention of the name Frankenstein, she just covered her ears and sobbed. I kept thinking, “Surely to god she wasn’t stupid enough to show the scene with the little girl.” Do you know that scene? Little Maria is playing next to a pond when the monster shuffles over. Initially startled, she overcomes her fear and takes his hand, inviting him to play. They share a creepily tender moment throwing daisies into the water and watching them float away, until the monster runs out of flowers. He silently picks up the girl and, as she screams at him to stop because he is hurting her, throws her into the water. And she drowns. (I’m not going to embed or link to the clip, because if you are a mother, you don’t need to hear that splash.)
Of course, my daughter’s idiot teacher did show this scene. No doubt she thought it would be relevant and the kids would relate because they are roughly the same age as the child being killed.
Having met with a wonderfully intelligent and open-minded vice principal, I think I have managed to shut the whole Frankenstein project down. But now I have to prepare myself for the backlash for having been over-protective of my child, from the teacher and from the parents of kids who cut their teeth on the Lord of the Rings.
And that’s the point for the Apocalypse this week — the fact that I will have to try to explain that it is not developmentally appropriate for 7-year olds to watch the killing of a child, no matter how bad the special effects are.
The Apocalypse: 21.5