This piece originally ran at Kveller.com.
On the way home from Sunday school, my tiny children asked so many uncomfortable questions. They asked about God, and death, and bad guys, and then something even worse. That Egyptian child from the tenth plague was just temporarily frozen, I told them. Once Pharaoh realized his mistake all the children were fine. Then I desperately tried to change the subject, but it kept coming back.
My children watched Prince of Egypt in Sunday school this weekend. They didn’t watch a short excerpt either. They watched a pretty big chunk of the movie and it was nowhere near age appropriate. I was there and in hindsight I wish I had followed my gut and pulled my children out of the room. Sometimes I wonder if I am being oversensitive, all of the other parents were chatting in the other room. I was the only one in the room wringing my hands.
If I had previewed the movie, I wouldn’t have let my children watch it. When I asked the other mother who is a volunteer teacher about it she said it was very gentle. Before the scene on the plagues, I asked her how the movie handles the tenth plague. She said, “Oh, it is very tasteful. It will go over their heads. It is just like a wind storm that comes through.” I don’t blame the teacher, other parent volunteers had canceled at the last minute and she was doing her best to fill in.
So I left my little ones seated, my tiny new 3-year-old and my sensitive nearly 6-year-old. But when the scene came, it made my stomach wrench. It focused on the Pharoah’s adorable innocent son being hit by this creepy wind storm from God, and well, you can imagine. Next the small boy is covered by a white sheet and the Pharoah says to Moses, “Ok, you can go now” or something. The crossing of the sea was rough too, but nothing compared to the boy with the sheet.
On the car ride home my 3-year-old said, “Why did God dead that boy.” These are moments I question everything, why do we even pass on scary stories generation after generation. Clearly, I do not believe it should be done through a video. I could have just reached for the remote, hit pause and suggested a story or game, but when I am in a community I don’t want to always be the trouble maker. It would have been better for all the children. I could have, but I didn’t.
It is so frustrating because Sunday school is a big effort. We rushed breakfast and drove 30 minutes away. And I have a feeling I will be digging out of this hole for a long time. I wound up fabricating this lie that God was just trying to teach Pharoah a lesson. And all of the Egyptian children were happy in the end too. My 3-year-old wanted to believe it, she kept repeating, “so God was doing a joke that wasn’t silly. The child did not really get dead-ed.”
My 5-year-old sort of believed me, but not fully. And I don’t know if I should have been lying or not, but I do think we shouldn’t have even been having that conversation. And since we were all in the car together, I could not have a slightly older kid conversation with my son. I did the best I could with my scrappy answers while trying to keep my eyes on the road. Parenting is hard, and messy, and this morning I am pretty sure I missed the mark.