A Lesson in Parenting
So Little D has decided to take part in the school play this semester. She hasn’t really done much in terms of performance besides her preschool Christmas concerts, so we were happy to see her show interest in something new…because clearly basketball isn’t sticking.
When she found out they were doing The Lion King, she was thrilled. Hakuna matata! She brushed up on the whole book, every song, and got ready for her first rehearsal.
“I want to be Simba!” she declared. My husband and I looked at each other. “That’s great, love. But the play is going to have a lot of kids from every grade (she is in first) and only one can be Simba…and it may not be you. It’s your first time in the production. You may be Simba or you may be someone else. Or you may be a tree.”
“Mama, I am not going to be a tree. It’s The Lion King. It takes place in the African desert. There aren’t a lot of trees.”
Point taken. “You may be a rock then. But if you are a rock, you should be the best rock that school has ever seen so that next year, or the year after, or the year after that, maybe you will be Simba.”
“Ok mama,” she said, slightly defeated but still optimistic. “As long as I am not a hyena.”
Little D has a very strong aversion to “bad guys” or scary characters or anything not remotely happy and sunshine-y. Because of this, she hasn’t watched any full-length movie (seriously – none; you name it, we haven’t seen it) and sticks to shows where she knows what’s happening and what’s happening is all good. Therefore, we are not fans of the hyenas in The Lion King.
“I just don’t want to be a hyena,” she repeated, tears welling up in her eyes.
Well…I got the cast list yesterday morning via email and surprise, surprise. Devyn is cast as…a hyena. Thank you, universe. Because Mondays aren’t tough enough.
My first instinct was to reply to the show director and politely request a switch. Ok, maybe she can’t be Simba, but perhaps a cute little lion cub? A wandering elephant? Heck, even a rock??! I felt the need to make it better. To protect her. To ensure she loved every single minute of this experience. To make the bad guys just go away.
I took a minute to think about it. I texted my husband who wasn’t at home to ask his opinion. I told my mom, who promptly said “Call the director and tell her she can’t be a hyena.”
I brought it up with D, casual in tone. The tears automatically started to flow. She didn’t want to be a hyena. Hyenas were bad guys and she doesn’t like the bad guys and they scare her and can she just be a rock??
And then I took another look at the scenario. What if she could make the bad guy be funny? Or kind of sweet? What if this could help change her perception of bad guys and what they mean and what really lies beneath?
I suggested we take some time after school to look at the script together, pick through all the hyena parts, and then decide whether or not we wanted to move forward. But they might not switch you, I warned. Even if you want to change. It might not be possible. She agreed.
So we did. We looked at the script and it has certainly been softened for the primary school audience. The hyenas don’t rip apart any lions. They don’t kill the father. We watched some cartoon videos of hyenas to see how they move and how she could bring that to life. We read about them on National Geographic Kids and learned about their packs and their laughing and their environment.
And guess what? Little D is happy to be a hyena now. She thinks they are kind of cute (they’re really not, have to say). She likes the idea of being in a pack.
She is going to be the best hyena The Lion King has ever seen.
Her first instinct, like mine, simply needed to be given a second thought.
And next year…well, maybe next year she will be Simba. Or maybe we’ll just go back to basketball.
*image above via here, no viable credit found 🙁