Quick! Call Social Services! I let my tween daughter play hooky not one, but two days this week.
Several factors led to this unorthodox parental decision. First of all, my daughter is never sick. She's only been absent once this year (well, three times now, I guess). She just received her third quarter report card, which was pretty stellar (clearly, she took that "If your grades drop, we sell the horse!" ultimatum seriously). Plus, we usually go away for spring break and we always fly the day before school vacation officially begins in order to avoid sky-high fares. So, pulling her out a day or even two early is par for the course.
But, most importantly, I let her ditch (what a colorful bit of slang) because one of her beloved camp friends who lives — a shocking — four states away was visiting Boston with her family. This was far too important to miss because of something as silly as middle school.
So, we arranged for a no-holds-barred reunion: cross-country riding, a late lunch at one of my daughter's favorite Mexican joints, a DVD with lots of less-than-nutritious-snacks, and a sleepover complete with extended hours and time limits on the computer, and a late-night hot tub. The girls had a ball.
At about 10 pm, my husband and I put the fan on in our room to drown out the giggling and left them to their own devices.
All awesome things must come to an end, and indeed the friend's parents showed up late the next morning to collect their overtired tween and drive home. We gave them a quick tour of our historic seaside town and the girls parted, not quite tearfully but with great and mutual affection.
We had lunch and I went back up to my office to work. A couple of hours later, I went down for a coffee (okay, allegedly for a coffee; I confess, I was checking on her). My daughter was half-heartedly watching TV while playing a game on her phone. It occurred to me that this would not be a particularly positive way to start spring break. Since we aren't going away, and since she can't spend every single minute at the stable (believe me, she would if she could), I was worried that we would fall into an abyss of endless "screen time."
"Let's go to the movies this afternoon!" I suggested. A quick call and we were able to enlist the company of one of her BFFs, provided that my husband watch her little brother until their mom got home. (He gamely agreed — in fact, they played chess. How cool is that!?!)
Now technically, I know, a movie is also a form of "screen time." But it's somehow different. You (actively) decide to (actively) go to the movie theatre. In our case, you actually have to drive about 10 miles to the nearest multiplex. The lights dim, the screen is enormous; you have to focus. You can't multitask without inducing the anger of fellow patrons, theatre management and/or those animated characters that show up between the previews and the film you're seeing. "I am the Lorax and I speak for the audience. Be courteous. Turn off your cell phone."
The movie I suggested was Mirror Mirror. Despite some 20 screens, there weren't many other choices. My daughter's already seen The Hunger Games (twice) and I'm forbidden to until I've read the books. Most of the other options appeared to be based on superhero comic books or of the Don't Look Now, You're in the House on Haunted Hill Where Blood Runs Through Every Room variety.
At any rate, I thought a "fractured fairy tale" would be fun. Julia Roberts, after decades of playing America's sweetheart, promised to be over-the-top evil as the queen. And, Lily Collins (whom I can't help but think of as the daughter of Phil, being a product of the 80s myself), seemed enchanting. The handsome twins from The Social Network, a.k.a. solo actor Armie Hammer, played the prince. And, Broadway divo Nathan Lane, who can do no wrong in my book, is the queen's bumbling henchman.
The movie is gorgeous to look at, and there are some clever twists to the familiar story. For example, the evil queen wants to marry the prince.
"We're roughly the same age," she smoothly assures him.
"The same age?" he sputters.
"I said roughly."
Unfortunately, though, the film could have been considerably shorter. At various points, scenes that should have been frightening were played for laughs. But, I did enjoy the reversals. Snow White, as you might expects, stumbles upon a hideout of "giant dwarves" when she runs way from her wicked stepmother. But, she doesn't merely keep house for them. She becomes part of their band of thieves, showing off some pretty fancy swordplay and sporting a kickass Alpine pirate wench ensemble. Go Snow!
After a happy ending, three popcorns, a blue raspberry Slushie and a Diet Coke, we were fairly satiated. On the ride home, we debriefed on favorite scenes. Then, something struck my daughter and her friend and they laughed hysterically for at least ten minutes. I tried my best to figure out what was so funny. To get it. To maybe chuckle a little myself. But, eventually, I gave up.
As the evil queen warned Snow White, "It's important to know when you've been beaten."