If you'd like some perspective on children and outdoor play ~ a big-deal topic these days with its own legislation ("No Child Left Inside," a co-sponsor of which is RI's Senator Reed, and which today gets about 41 million hits on Google), I highly recommend seeing "Fearful Symmetry," a full-length documentary that comes with the Legacy or Collector's Edition of "To Kill a Mockingbird."
"Fearful Symmetry" is an extraordinary work that gives insight into such a different life from what we live today. Interviews with people who actually grew up with Harper Lee open our eyes to this other world filled with Character. You probably know the story of "To Kill a Mockingbird," which has to do with racial prejudice and injustice in a Southern town in the 1930s. Critics write about the trial in Mockingbird, of "coming of age," learning about evil in the world. But you might not remember how much of the movie shows the children playing in a small-town setting, exploring the world, taking chances, wondering at mysteries, collecting small treasures. Indeed, the whole story is presented through the eyes of a child.
You have to love spunky, feisty, strong-willed Scout! Mary Badham, who plays the 6-year-old tomboy, Scout, was nominated for a supporting Oscar for her wholehearted performance. Philip Alford, who plays her older brother, Jem, is also completely genuine, natural. In "Fearful Symmetry" we find out how the director let them roam and play all over the set. Their freedom to roam and climb and run reminded me of my own long-past childhood, exploring the nearby woods, attempting to redirect the local brook, climbing trees, making up games, sledding through the orchard, flying down hills on a scooter, picking gooseberries. How to incorporate that sense of freedom for children into life today.... ? Certainly the world of Mockingbird was full of danger as it also is today. There's a mad dog and a dangerous, menacing drunk, who might (and does) harm these children. Even so, the children are not limited. Is the parenting in the film wise? Is it foolhardy? Is it possible to parent like Atticus today?
Apparently it's not easy to go back there. In the last few days, I've added all the Audubon Society of Rhode Island events to What Grows On in Rhode Island, as well as several upcoming Norman Bird Sanctuary activities in September and the next hike scheduled by Rhode Island Families in Nature. Really great activities are planned for families and children (See the Children's SubCalendar for details). However, seeing the movie over against these upcoming events made me think, If we just left the kids alone to explore the natural world, would they take to it like Scout? Maybe it's really the parents that are in the way? Or our whole way of life? Seems that today we need a workshop for parents called "Reclaiming Nature Play." You might want to check that out, but if "No Child Left Inside" really concerns you, also contemplate Scout!
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962); "Fearful Symmetry" (1998)