Imagine: Two imaginative, well-adjusted kids are introduced to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Soon after, they spend their free time sword fighting with sticks. Playing “the time when Sam saves Frodo from the spider.” Drooling over the Lord of the Ring LEGO sets in the toy store. Creating maps of Middle Earth. Donning capes and vowing to protect the kingdom. Begging to see The Hobbit trailer over and over on the computer. Then, some more invisible sword fights.
Pretty normal, right?
However did you picture two little girls in this situation? Because those two kids are my daughters, and this has been our month so far.
Behold, as the world turns upside down!
Since a few weeks ago, when Thalia and Sage first watched the trilogy with us (at Nate’s insistence), they were instantly obsessed. I wasn’t too worried about the content; I checked Common Sense Media and decided the positive messages and role models trumped the violence. The sex is nil. Plus, I know their capacity for imagination and love for fantasy and mystery–from the Oz series we’re still devouring to The Goonies–and I know their limits. Ask Sage today if Smeagol is scary and she says, “why would I be scared of Smeagol? It’s only a movie, Mom.”
And of course we watched every moment with them, explaining each scene as it happened and justifying away the creepy orcs with, “don’t they look so silly? They look so silly, right!”
Yet, it’s almost comical to see the raised eyebrows of shopkeepers and teachers and sundry adults as Thalia relates in great detail (to anyone who might listen, I should add) why “Fellowship of the Rings is the best one;” and Sage jumps in to argue that Return of the King was far better than The Two Towers “which was just a lot of war stuff.”
Who are these two little girls in twirly skirts and pink scooter helmets, talking about the complexity of Gollum’s inner struggle or the “cool scene with the giant spider?”
They are my little girls. And they are not always as they seem.
Sometimes my kids are Dorothy and Ozma on adventures through Oz. Sometimes they’re Jesus “and the girl from Hanna Montana” singing and dancing. Sometimes they’re Junie B Jones and her best friend solving mysteries. Sometimes they’re Luke and Leia protecting the galaxy and singing the Darth Vader song they made up when Thalia was 4.
This week they are Hobbits.
If they don’t grow up to be novelists or actors or at least kids who single-handedly bring Dungeons and Dragons back to Brooklyn I’ll be shock. Thalia has already informed me that I am Arwen–I could do worse–and Nate is Aragon and they are Frodo and Sam, and guess what! We’re all going out on Halloween this way.
(And like that, we are now that crazy Lord of the Rings family who vacations every year at the Renaissance Fair. I don’t recall signing up for this at the hospital, but it’s possible. I was coming down from the epidural.)
Now here I have to admit, the one parent it all seems to make the most nervous…is me. Not the love of the movies (and more excitingly, the new desire to start reading the actual Tolkien books), but the physicality of the role-playing.
I still work on getting over my knee-jerk fear fear of my girls climbing and swinging and wrestling, flipping over the couch arm and hanging upside down on the monkey bars from their knees. I want them to expand beyond the traditional girl fantasy zone which comprises of princesses, dollhouses, “kitchen,” more princesses, and those LEGO Friends who own pet shops. But part of that is me encouraging it, the way Nate thought to sit down with them in the first place, and bond over his three favorite movies ever. Part of that is me saying, “okay you can sword fight, but NOT NEAR THE EYES.”
That’s good parenting, right?
So when she asked last week, I let Thalia search for Tolkien posters on the internet for her room. I figured, eh, better than Justin Bieber. She settled on these by Jamesey , and I have to say, I’m pretty taken with her taste.
I don’t think a parent would question those posters in a boy’s room for a minute. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a parent question a five year-old boy wearing a Darth Vader hoodie. I’ve never seen an invisible sword fight between boys regarded with anything but approval at the adorableness of it all (a few rare freaked-out helicopter moms not withstanding). But we’re all–me included–still working on the girls who want to play at sword-fighting fantasy too.
In my defense, I’ve come a long way since I stood paralyzed in the CVS aisle, wondering what would happen if Sage chose the Buzz Lightyear Pull-Ups marked BOY.
You know what happened? Nothing bad.
And nothing bad is happening now.
In fact, good is happening. I don’t think Thalia was ever so proud as she was last Sunday, when she spent an afternoon assembling the Lord of the Rings Shelob Attacks LEGO set all by herself. Every bit of it.
Recently Thalia asked me if she was a tomboy. I told her not to worry about labels or about things that she thinks that boys do and things that she thinks that girls do.
“Just be you.”
She seemed perfectly satisfied with that answer. Which makes me love her more.