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Observations from my Mixed Up World

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ParaNorman – The Ultimate Anti-Bullying Movie

Can you really say anything bad about a movie where the zombies are trying to right an ancient wrong and common citizens are the real monsters?  We saw ParaNorman last night and it was awesome.  The creativity and vision that went into crafting this movie raised it to a new level.

I am so into rooting for the underdog.  I just love it when stereotypes are set on their heads.  The lumbering zombies wander into town and the panicked citizen set upon them like wolves on a wounded deer.  Seeing the terror on those zombie faces when the crowd starts picking up everything that can be used as a weapon and begins their rampage is priceless.

Maya loved the beginning sections and I suppose in a somewhat perverse way, I was heartened by her booming laughs echoing in the theatre while Norman tries to pry the ancient book from his dead uncle’s hands.  If you can’t see the humour in a little bit of indignity to a corpse then you need to lighten up.

Ok, the climax of the movie was pretty intense but it really did portray how the victim can become the tormentor just to execute what they think is justice.  Maya was a little scared but thankfully her nightmares that night were limited.  Doesn’t a little fear teach us all?

I think that the moment that sold me on the whole movie was when Norman was arguing with his dad and disgusted demands of his mother “Why is he so scared of me? and she replied “He isn’t scared of you.  He is scared for you.”  That sums up so much of what being a parent is all about for me.  It is not that you are different,  it is what happens when other people see you being different.  Often, not pretty and in kids, rather unfiltered by the fear of human rights legislation or workplace norms or any of the other things that keep adults from acting like animals.  We always want to protect our kids but do they always understand why?  No.  And helping them understand why we do things is to try and teach lessons that they can only understand by living themselves.

I think it is harder to stand back and support.  Scarier too.

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Drama at Play Practice

Today was Milo’s usual play practice and I dropped him off as usual.  It was a regular day and I had no idea of the scene that would greet me at pick up time.  I wandered in and couldn’t see Milo anywhere.  Of course, I had Maya glued to me because she hadn’t bothered to pee at Starbucks and was now hopping up and down uncontrollably.  We found Milo and his teacher as we walked over to the bathroom.  Milo sitting in a chair crying and the teacher working, ineffectively, to console him.

I pushed Maya into the bathroom and asked what the problem was?  It seems that some of the other boys in the play had been razing Milo over his small stature.  It is a fact that he is small.  His sister at 5 weights the same and is almost the same height.  He is peeved at me because I make him sit in the booster seat riding in the car for safety reasons.  Even he admits that he’s short.  Today the problem is not just that he is short but he is short and in the play, he has the part of a Yeti.

I’ve seen the material for the costume and I have this feeling he is going to look a lot like a Shih-Tzu .  It’s all shaggy and warm.  He’ll look pretty cuddly.  So the boys were bugging him and then worse, the girls started in too.  The teacher wanted me to know that she wasn’t ok with the situation and she planned to have a talk with the group at the beginning of the next practice.  We took some deep breaths and went home.

So I don’t think  this was bullying.  I was bullied as kid and I hated it.  I hate bullies too.  Mind you my big mouth and intolerant attitude didn’t help me make lots of friends either.  By grade 4, the only thing faster than my mouth were my feet.  I knew 20 different ways home with many places to hide.  I think that the kids in the play were just bullshitting Milo and didn’t know they’d hit a sore spot.  But I don’t like the idea of the teacher having an announcement and telling the group to be nice to Milo.  I worry that hangs a big sign around his neck saying “I have buttons and when you push them, I go nuts.”  I don’t want him set up to be bully bait.  Since I was bullied myself, I’ve learned to be very careful about letting people know what gets to me.  Showing weakness is like playing with pit bulls wearing pork chop cologne.  Everywhere, always and without exception.

I’ve worried about Milo because he gets upset easily but in the past, he’s been such a popular kid (amazing to me, a kid that had therapy because I had no friends) and popular kids don’t get bullied. (usually.)  Fast forward to this afternoon and I had a chat with him.  I encouraged him to try to deal with things on his own before he rushes to get adults involved.  This idea created some discussion between my wife and I.  As a teacher, she sees and hears a lot more about bullying than I do.  She’s worried, rightfully so, that Milo will think that he has to deal all on his own and end up scared, messed up or worse.  I agree that you need to let adults know about bad situations, but an inner city schooling taught me that you need to show and know you can deal with things on your own because sometimes there are no adults around.  In the end, I went back to Milo and discussed that I wanted him to try to deal with teasing on his own but that didn’t mean he was on his own.  I always want to know if he is having problems, I told him.  Sometimes I will help him find solutions and sometimes, I will solve them for him.

Funny, I didn’t think that this quiet, rainy day would have such depth.