Monday, April 15, 2013

My Daughter Bethany . . . Has Taken Things Too Far

Just over a month ago, we watched a movie called Soul Surfer that had been recommended to us by several people.  The movie is based on the true story of a young surfer named Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm in a shark attack.  After the attack Bethany went on to realize her dream of becoming a professional surfer.

Janae, who already loved surfing--her knowledge of the sport based solely on facts presented in Barbie in a Mermaid's Tale and Barbie in a Mermaid's Tale 2--quickly became obsessed with this movie.  We watched the movie several times, and also all of its bonus material--which included interviews with Bethany Hamilton and her family.  Janae started dressing in Hawaiian clothes and talking about visiting Kauai.  She started "surfing" on any surface that remotely resembled a surf board, took out two books from the library on her new idol, and joined the Bethany Hamilton fan club online.

Janae, however, didn't leave it at that.  She started pulling one of her arms into her shirt and pretending that SHE had lost an arm in a shark attack--not only at home but also in places like the airport, the park, our church, and--I found out this morning--SCHOOL. 

Last week Janae's school was having a cultural day, and Janae insisted that she was going to dress Hawaiian.  When I argued that we didn't have any Hawaiian ancestry, she said, "What about Bethany Hamilton?"  I explained that we weren't actually related to Bethany, but Janae said she had already told several people at school that we were Hawaiian (you'd think anyone who has seen me would know this isn't true--but we are talking about kindergarteners here!).

Janae ended up being sick in the night and unable to go to cultural day . . . which I guess was enough to allow for THIS to happen:

This morning I had just dropped off Ben and Janae and was walking down the hill at the school, back to the car, when another kindergarten mom struck up a conversation with me about Janae's "accident."  She told me her daughter had been telling her "what had happened to Janae" while we were on holidays.  The mom had thought the incident sounded a little too extreme, and had concluded that her daughter had just had a bad dream about Janae.  The little girl, though, had been adamant that Janae had really been hurt--so the mom asked the kindergarten teacher if something had happened to Janae (who--as I mentioned--had been away from school on Friday with the flu).  The teacher hadn't heard anything. . . .

I had an uncomfortable idea where this might be going, so I asked, "Was it about losing an arm?"

"Yes," the mom confirmed.

"In a shark attack?" I asked.

"Yes--that was exactly what my daughter said."

I then quickly explained about Soul Surfer.

Now, I know things have gone a bit too far, but I am not exactly sure what to do about it. 

A couple of days ago Ben was complaining, "I feel like Janae isn't even Janae any more--it's like she has actually turned into Bethany Hamilton." I responded by reminding Ben about when he was in kindergarten, and how he had "become" Darth Vader for what now seems like a little while.  

Both cases seemed like harmless use of childhood imagination when I made the comparison--and Bethany Hamilton is definitely a better role model than Darth Vader--but apparently Janae is having a little more trouble separating facts from fiction. 

And apparently she is a little more convincing.  Sometimes I even forget that she still has two arms :)

But something will have to be done about Janae's tall tales....


Anita said...

Does your child live in a dream world?!:) You have definitely instilled a brilliant imagination into that girl, that's for sure!!

rachel joy said...

Wow! Yes, some discussion is necessary but I agree with Anita - you've done well to encourage a good imagination in your kids!