Kung Fu Panda 3

As the parents of a three-year-old, my husband and I are always on the lookout for a new children’s movie to add to our video library.  Young children tend to watch the same movie a thousand times over and over and over again before they are ready to move on. And speaking for myself, I can only cope with repeating that same movie so many times before I start having dreams where I take on one of the leading roles of our daughter’s current movie obsession.  Yes, I had such a dream back in the days of Riley’s obsession with Frozen.  It was around the time of her second open heart surgery.  During our hospital stay, Frozen was on a continuous repeating loop in her room.  If she woke up and the movie was not playing, or worse if something else was playing, she broke down into an inconsolable crying fit.  Not a good thing for a small child (or anyone for that matter) who is recovering from open heart surgery.  Nothing calmed her down during these episodes.  Nothing except for hearing the opening song to her favorite movie.

That was 18 months ago, and I can count the number of times we have watched Frozen in the last twelve months on one hand.  We have gone through a few other movie obsessions since the days of Frozen.  I try to make sure that each movie she watches not only provides entertainment value but also has some sort of positive lesson to teach.  A few examples from our video library include:

  • Tangled, which teaches young girls to stand up for themselves.  More important, is the lesson of not allowing anyone, even a loved one, to stand in the way as they follow those dreams. 
  • Wreck-It Ralph gives children a safe way to explore the topic of bullies and shows how much words can hurt.  Also, there is the valuable lesson that we should not judge a person by their outward appearance. 
  • Toy Story teaches children the importance of friendship and teamwork. 
  • Inside Out shows us how emotions are often more complex than they first appear on the surface.   Also, it gives voice to the fact that a person’s actions do not have to be controlled by emotion. 
  • Home illustrates the value of individuality when a person is surrounded by conformity.  It also explains the value of a single true friend over the accumulation of masses of acquaintances. 

I know that at three-years-old, Riley is still a bit too young to be aware of these lessons.  I also know that she does understand the intended feelings of the different situations presented..  No matter how many times she has seen these movies, she gets upset every time when Ralph smashes the cart that he and Vanellope built together.  The same for when Merida thinks that she has lost her mom to bear form forever.  And she becomes distraught when we are left to believe that Oh is crushed by the giant alien spaceship.  And when the happy endings come, she performs a full cheer, complete with arms raised high and a huge smile on her sweet face.  So, she does understand happy versus sad events, and I have no doubt that she will grasp more of the nuances of these stories as she grows older.

The Kung Fu Panda series is by far one of my favorites to date.  The series is filled with funny moments, but it is also filled with learning moments. 

For those who have not watched these movies, the main character is a panda named Po.  Po has always dreamed of learning Kung Fu.  Even as he spends his days working at a job he hates in his adoptive father’s restaurant.  One day, Po gets the chance to turn his dreams into reality when he is chosen as the Dragon Warrior.  The Dragon Warrior is supposed to be a Kung Fu master who will save the valley during a great time of need, and his coming was foretold in a 500-year-old prophecy.  The rest of the series shows Po learning Kung Fu and fighting the bad guy who threaten the village when nobody believes he can do it.  He is often clumsy, and his approach is never what would be expected from a great Kung Fu Master.  And yet, his approach works.  The whole series teaches children to think outside of the box, and just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that is the only way to accomplish their goal.  The series is pretty deep on the subject of personal growth, but does it in a way that is not preachy.

May 13th marked the home video release of Kung Fu Panda 3, and I can say that Riley is in love with it.  She asks for it at least twice a day.  Often more.  This is huge for our girl who has barely a handful of words because she actually says “danda.” while pointing to the movie tile on the screen.  That in itself is enough to make this mommy love the movie.  But it is a great movie filled with funny moments and tons of great lessons for both children and adults alike. 

For instance, there is a scene where Po’s teacher, Shifu, has turned over teaching the training class to Po.  It is a disaster and Po is left feeling humiliated afterward.  When he finds out that Shifu knew he would not be able to teach the class, Po asks why he set him up to fail.  The answer, “If you only do what you can do, you’ll never be more than you are.”  What an awesome lesson for children and adults alike!  There are, of course, many more comedy-laced learning moments throughout the film. 

In short, if you haven’t already seen it, even if you don’t have children, Kung Fu Panda 3 is a great movie that adds to the overall story of the series while standing on it’s own for those who have not seen the first two movies.  I highly recommend it!  

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Who is raising our children?

In the past week, I have read numerous news articles regarding the Meitiv family in Maryland.  Almost every article that I have read has focused on one question:  Are the Meitivs right or wrong in their choice to raise their children (ages 10 and 6) in what has been labeled the “free-range” style?  I have read arguments describing the world as a dangerous place, and these arguments make the absolute statement that all children should be under adult supervision every minute of every day.  I have also read the opposing arguments stating that children need to learn self-sufficiency and should be allowed the independence to explore the world on their own.  I have read how statistics show children are more likely to be abducted or abused by family members or family friends than by strangers on the street.  I have read the “what if (insert worst case scenario of choice)” arguments.  In the end, it seems to me that the national debate over the right and wrong of the Meitiv’s parenting choices is entirely the wrong debate.

It does not matter if you agree with the Meitiv’s decision to allow their 10-year old son and 6-year old daughter to walk unsupervised about a mile from their home to the park to play.  What does matter is how the situation in Silver Spring, Maryland was handled by the authorities.  After reading several different news articles describing the situation, the following timeline has emerged:

    • 5 PM – a police officer stopped the children while they were walking home from the park.  By Mrs. Meitiv’s account, the officer coerced the children into the back of his patrol car while promising to take them home.  Rather than keeping his promise, he took them first to the police station and then to a child protective services crisis center.  The children were left in the back of the patrol car for at least two hours before they were  turned over to child protective services.
    • 6 PM – the time the Meitivs expected the children to return home for dinner
    • 8 PM – the Meitivs are contacted by authorities, this is the first notification the parents received of the children’s whereabouts.
    • 10:30 PM – the Meitivs are finally allowed to see their children

I can only imagine the terror these parents felt for the two hours between 6 PM and 8 PM.  As a parent, I know that this is the thing of nightmares.  Can you imagine the fear these children experienced for five and a half hours?  Sitting in the back of a patrol car and then at a crisis center, with no dinner until well past bedtime on a school night had to be terrifying for them.  The Meitiv family went through something that no parent or child should ever have to face, especially at the hands of the local police and child protective services.    Yet the national debate is not focused on how the authorities acted inappropriately and caused tremendous stress and worry to this entire family.  The argument is that by letting the children go to the park unsupervised the Meitivs were placing them in potential danger of a predator kidnapping them and therefore are unfit parents.  By this reasoning, every time a parent straps their child into a car seat and drives down the road, they are potentially endangering that child because they may get into an accident and therefore they should be punished.  Ridiculous I know, but we cannot go down the path of punishing people for crimes that may happen in the future.

To put it in perspective I went searching for statistics and this is what I found:

    • According to the CDC, in 2011 there were 650 children ages 12 and under who died in car accidents, and 33% of those children were not in car seats or wearing seatbelts.
    • According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, each year there are an estimated 115 children abducted by strangers, and only 50 of those children are killed.

It goes against everything that we have been conditioned to believe, but let that sink in for a moment.  A child is thirteen times more likely to die in a car accident than at the hands of a stranger who has kidnapped them.

Another example, this time out of Port St Lucie, FL:  Nicole Gainey gave her 7-year old son a cell phone in a specially made case that hung around his neck so that he could keep in contact with her and then she allowed him to walk the half a mile to the park to play.  The police were called, picked him up from the park and drove him home.  After questioning Ms. Gainey, the officers arrested her for child neglect..  Before this incident, her son was a normal outgoing boy who loved to play outside.  Now he refuses to go outside, even into his own fenced in back yard, unless his mother is watching him because he fears that she will be arrested again if he is out of her sight.

The authorities in both cases were allowed to terrorize these children all in the name of “protecting” them from neglectful parents.  Where is the outcry over the psychological damage the authorities caused these families?  You do not have to agree with these parent’s choices, but you do need to acknowledge that the only harm done to these children came at the hands of the police and child protective services.  These children were playing outside.  They were not bullying other children.  They were not spraying graffiti on the sidewalks or the walls of local businesses.  They were not throwing rocks at passing cars.  They were not breaking any law.  How is it permissible for them to be terrorized by authorities?

When did we as a society allow our government, and by extension the police to start telling us how we can or cannot raise our children? According to the U.S Department of Health & Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway website, in “2008, an estimated 1,740 children died from abuse or neglect…”  My question is, shouldn’t police and child protective services focus on saving those children who are in greater danger?