Nick’s K4 class just started the gingerbread man unit. They read the story and then they EXPLORE the hell out of it for a couple weeks. They do art activities, they run around the building being chased by various creatures who want to eat G Man, they brainstorm ways he can get away.
For homework, Nick had to decorate a little fellow and then suggest a way for him to escape being eaten. Nick decided to cover him with cotton balls so that he’d be disguised as a white poodle. Nick recommended that G Man climb a tree, but only if the hunter chasing him can’t climb. Otherwise, hide in snowy plants where you blend in. Be very still.
Nick isn’t troubled by G Man. I think he readily accepts, as I used to do, that it’s just a stupid fairy tale. Whatever.
My point of view changed when Jesse got to K4 and faced the gingerbread man unit. She unraveled. She would fall to keening in the classroom. She screamed her way through the school hallways in utter terror as other kids laughed happily, because she was told they were being chased by creatures who wanted to EAT THEM.
It took time and patience for us to tease it out of Jesse. She couldn’t understand why this little cookie person had to be eaten. And why did they have to bring it up every day, reminding her again and again of the horrifying and inevitable doom G Man faces, filling her nightmares with images of his head being bitten off? What was wrong with her classmates and teacher, that they found it FUNNY that G Man was tormented, chased, tricked, killed??
When it was her turn to offer a strategy for G man’s survival, Jesse took it seriously, though her final suggestion was simple: “cover yourself with snow and then the fox will not eat you.” It was an imperative. The G Man needed to make it out alive, just once.
He never did, of course. I remember quite clearly how Jesse’s teacher thought this episode was a good illustration of some of Jesse’s issues, as in, aha there’s something wrong with her. But I think Jesse was right, not wrong. In a season of alleged love, generosity, and hope, when we supposedly celebrate new beginnings and life, what the fu@* is up with the G Man story? Why is it okay to laugh at his demise? It’s twisted.
Sure, the Gingerbread man is obnoxious and annoying. So what? Let’s let him escape this year and live happily ever after, somewhere in Europe in a cookie protection program.