ZOMBIE TEEN? Does ‘Age-Appropriate’ Even Matter Any More?

Written by Pauline Wolak on October 31, 2014

“One of the best gifts we can give our kids is the opportunity to savor their childhood.” – Marie Williams

We’ve entered the twilight years of Halloween here at the Wolak house. Gone are the days when my children begged me to make their costumes. I’ve channeled my inner-Martha Stewart to fulfill the cute and very original requests I’ve gotten over the years. There’s the tried and true: Dorothy, a pumpkin or two, and the random spider. Then there’s the odd: a pizza slice, a John Deere tractor, and, my personal favorite, a box of free kittens.
There isn’t anything I haven’t been able to make. Until this year, that is.

“I want to be a zombie.” But not just any zombie. After searching the internet and Pinterest, my girl settled on the bunny slipper-footed zombie girl, complete with tattered pink bathrobe and grotesquely decimated face.

Um, no.

Zombies, I discovered, are the pre-teen version of the toddler Elsa (“Let it go…Let it go….”). While I’m not comfortable steering my kids toward the “everyone’s doing it” choice of costume, I’d have probably relented. Except the zombie in question is from The Walking Dead. A great show, I’m told. Very popular, I’ve heard. I’ve no doubt it’s a Hollywood masterpiece. It’s also a masterpiece my daughter is not even close to being able to see. At 11, she’s far too young. After explanation and the tiniest hint of eye roll, we settled on a new, age-appropriate costume.

After looking through some of the selections for girls her age, I should be thrilled all she wanted to be was a ravaged little zombie tyke. She could have opted for pre-teen hooker witch. Or pre-teen hooker fairy. Or what I can only describe as the Frederick’s of Hollywood version of Red Riding Hood.

Have we gone off the rails? Are we really encouraging our girls to dress like they should be carrying a portable pole with them? And it’s not just Halloween. My children seem to be part of the minority. No phone, no makeup, no dating, no rated R movies, no Facebook page…. I realize, to some, my “no” list is horrifying. I hope they realize that after seeing a ten year old with their face buried in a cellphone, it isn’t a leap to think zombies are real.

The permissiveness with which we’re raising our youth is staggering. After the most recent school shooting, I noticed what I wished was an anomaly. Accompanying an article written for the Daily Mail, several pictures depicted both shooter Jaylen Fryberg and some of his victims. I was troubled that several featured girls that looked much older than 14, at a school dance or posing for a selfie. Speculation that a “love triangle” precipitated the shooting did little to assuage my growing unease.

Too much cleavage for social media. Too much anger for social media. Too much social media. We’re raising a generation of kids that live their entire lives on the pages of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Once tools that connected people, they’ve become a symbol for something dark. It’s a place inhabited by people hiding behind screen names, living a life through the lens of a cell phone camera. Blinking screens like blinds to shut out the light of the real world. We’re obsessed with capturing ourselves in moments instead of enjoying them.

Worse, we’re allowing our young children to do the same. Were these parents aware of the pictures these children posted? Did they even care? Why are we letting our daughters pose in low cut tops and bootie shorts for the entire world to leer at? Why are we letting our sons rant on Twitter about sex and girls? In my head these kids aren’t even old enough to date, much less handle the pressures that come with a very adult sexual relationship. If we’d been monitoring these kids, could a tragedy have been avoided? I’d like to think so.

Which begs the bigger question, why weren’t we? Or worse, what if we were and no one cared? Have we washed our hands of it; deemed their behavior “age appropriate?” Have we accepted that this is the new norm?

In time, my “no” list will get shorter. Halloween will become one of those fond memories, something we once did when it was cool to be a witch or a bat or a ghost. In time, she’ll be old enough to be a brain-dead zombie teen.

I just hope it’s only for one day.

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Pauline is a proud wife and mother of three. When she isn't being the world's greatest Girl Friday, she is volunteers her time as a school librarian and athletic director. Pauline enjoys football, politics, good beer, and arguing with anyone. She's a devout pro-life Catholic. Pauline believes in the 1st Amendment and uses it on a daily basis, most notably to ambush unsuspecting family members in political debate! You can find her work here at Clash and at redknucklepolitics.com. Follow her on twitter at @MiStateFan.