The Little Prince and the Pandemic

by Abby on July 5, 2020

Have you watched everything on Netflix yet? I’m getting there. I can barely remember the days I didn’t have time to watch TV. My kids, however, don’t watch TV. They watch YouTube. And neither one of them is into movies, really, except for superhero movies. Which is how I ended up watching “The Little Prince” with my mom on a recent rainy day.

As a French major in college, I read the original book, Le Petit Prince, published by Antoine Saint-Exupery in 1943, in its original language. The beloved children’s book has been translated into 250 languages, btw, and still sells about 2 million copies per year.

It’s an odd little book. Fanciful and melancholy. The Little Prince is sort of an intergalactic orphan, traveling from planet to planet while pondering deep existential matters. “Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”

The 2015 film is an appealing update. It introduces a new character, a modern-day little girl who’s spending her summer “vacation” studying around the clock to gain acceptance into the elite Werth Academy while her Type-A, pant-suited single mom is at work all day.

It’s impossible for me to not see everything through a pandemic-filtered lens these days. Watching this clip where the mom explains her Life Plan for the little girl, I felt an unpleasant jolt of recognition: minus the Zoom meetings, this was what distance learning was like in our house. The girl works away, hour after hour, day after day, alone in her room, with no friends, recess, or music to break up the schoolwork.

Then, she meets her neighbor, an eccentric old pilot who lives in a ramshackle house filled with his artwork and inventions, as cluttered and colorful as her house is spare and angular. (Even the shrubs are square.) He, as it turns out, is the creator of The Little Prince.

The animation is amazing. The modern-day sequences are CG-animated in the style of “Kung Fu Panda,” also directed by Mark Osborne. The book excerpts are filmed in stop-motion, featuring beautiful paper cutouts and puppets. Osborne told the NYT the use of delicate paper was “in keeping with one of the major themes of the story, which is that anything beautiful is ephemeral.”

Among the more chilling parts of the movie are the scenes of the adult world: drab, gray cities filled with skyscrapers and drab, gray-faced adults pecking away at computers while posters on the wall urge them to “Be Essential.” That message is also reinforced on the walls of the Werth Academy, where posters read, “What Will You Be When You Grow Up? Essential.”

Here again, my grown-up, COVID-colored worldview crept in. Because we know now what we didn’t know just months ago: that the real essential workers are not those pecking away at computers inside of high-rises, but the bus drivers, delivery people, supermarket clerks, mail carriers, medical providers, and caregivers. (And janitors–no spoilers, but this turns out to be important.)

Also essential, it turns out? Social interaction, play, rest, and numerous other things we may have taken for granted until we didn’t have them anymore. The Little Prince, so young and yet so wise, has already learned this lesson: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

FACT O’ THE DAY: In my research for this post, I learned that Antoine Saint-Exupery was himself an aviator who wrote the book in New York, where he fled after the Germans occupied France in 1940. He returned to fly reconnaissance missions for the Allies, and disappeared the year after his book was published. Years later, parts of his plane were found along with a silver bracelet with his name on it.

READ O’ THE DAY: This NYT article by Deb Perelman calls out the impossible challenge of parents working while schools remain closed. This part made me LOL bitterly in recognition:

Why isn’t anyone talking about this? … Why am I, a food blogger best known for such hits as the All-Butter Really Flaky Pie Dough and The ‘I Want Chocolate Cake’ Cake, sounding the alarm on this? I think it’s because when you’re home schooling all day, and not performing the work you were hired to do until the wee hours of the morning, and do it on repeat for 106 days (not that anyone is counting), you might be a bit too fried to funnel your rage effectively.


In my last post, about my memories of a friend who has passed, I said that I write in order to remember, to share, and to heal. This week, the world has changed again, and I have asked myself what my role is as a writer. At times I have written to encourage and inspire. At other times, to entertain and connect. Today, I am writing to record, respond, and show solidarity.

It’s not enough and it won’t change the world, but after grappling with my fears of saying the wrong thing, I’ve decided that this is what I have to offer in this moment. And while no one needs it or is asking for it from me, it’s what is going on in my heart and in my home. My fear of anyone thinking that George Floyd and black lives are not on my radar or don’t matter to me is far greater than my fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.

I have spent the past week reading, watching, listening, hurting, and going way too deep into Twitter comments and IG Lives. All day on Tuesday I grappled with whether or not to post the “black square.” After much research and consideration, I finally decided that it was problematic and I did not.

I scrolled past list after list of links, resources, and books and thought about adding my own, but I did not. I thought about taking inventory in my own home of books, music, art, and toys showing diversity and posting a picture, but I did not. (I did take inventory, and came up with many books by and about people of color, plus a Black Panther T-shirt, but I did not post about it.)

Unfortunately for those of us in Baltimore, this is not new. The outrage over the death of an African-American man at the hands of police, or the related issues. In 2015, our city experienced what is now called the Baltimore Uprising, but was then simply called riots and looting after Freddie Gray died in police custody. I wrote about it here. It was not the first time I had talked to my children about racism, but it was the first time I had to figure out how to talk to them about police brutality.

I was in high school when the video of Rodney King being beaten by the LAPD came out; it was on the news but it was not on a phone in my hand. It was not in my hometown. My kids were 9 and 6 in 2015, and attending a school with a nearly 50% minority student population. Many of their classmates lived in the neighborhoods affected by the riots. Most kids were on or exposed to social media. There was no ignoring or avoiding the news.

In 6th grade, my son had a teacher who based the entire curriculum on Black Lives Matter, which this teacher called the modern-day Civil Rights movement. Most of what they read, discussed, and wrote about centered on this topic. I’m not going to lie—it was controversial. Many parents, white and black, clashed with this teacher and questioned the curriculum. I did not love that my 11yo was reading first-hand accounts of violence by imprisoned teens, but would I shield him from books about slavery or the Holocaust? No. In the end, my son did well in the class and I am glad he had exposure to issues I certainly wouldn’t have brought up on my own at the dinner table. And it laid the ground work for the dinner-table discussions we’re having today.

What I’m continuing to learn is that avoiding issues like systemic racism and police brutality is a privilege. Addressing them is imperfect and uncomfortable. Talking about them in your home is hard enough, and on social media feels near-impossible. There’s no shortage of people to shout others down, criticize them, call them names, or worse.

So why address it at all online, you might ask? Because silence doesn’t help anything. And because that’s where the conversation needs to happen.

I turned to one of my favorite podcasts for guidance: in Episode 156 of the Edit Your Life podcast, host Christine Koh interviews Amber Coleman-Mortley, director of social engagement at iCivics, Inc. on how to talk to kids about race. Amber shares what she said when her daughter commented that “all the black boys” on the playground played rough, and her video-game analogy for explaining privilege to her sons.

In response to a question I asked Amber on Instagram (@momofallcapes) about engaging apathetic teens who think “why bother speaking up?”, she replied:

“It’s so important to empower your teens to have courage to stand up. I’m finding that group chats, TikTok and Snap Stories are prime spaces where racism and racist cyber bullying is happening. Talk about community responsibility. Contextualizing allyship as ‘being a good friend,’ often resonates more. We must be vigilant.”

She also quoted educator and activist Angela Davis who said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”

As beloved ex-royal badass Meghan Markle said in a video she recorded for students graduating from her former high school in LA, “The only wrong thing to say is to say nothing.”

LINK O’ THE DAY: I really appreciated this video by ex-NFL player and ESPN commentator Emmanuel Acho, which I shared with my sons. He gives thoughtful responses to questions he’s been asked, like “What good does rioting do?” and “Why is it OK for you to say the N-word but white people can’t?”

LAUGH O’ THE DAY: I can’t help it. It must be in my DNA to seek out humor, even if it’s dark. This reply to an “all lives matter” commenter made me chuckle:

“I’m curious, what is it about the statement ‘black lives matter’ that might suggest other lives don’t matter, or that other groups don’t also deserve respect? For example, if I said ‘save the coral reef,’ should one take that as a suggestion that I think all other reefs can go to hell?”


My Friend Jim

May 16, 2020

Well, this pandemic has not panned out like I thought. Is that a ridiculous statement, or what? My efforts to revive this blog, to write regularly, to hire someone to fix it for me, to guide my kids through distance learning, to navigate my own fears, stresses, and existential dread? None of it has worked […]

Read the full article →

Experiencing All the Moods and All the Online Content

April 5, 2020

I spent $27 on gas in March. That’s an interesting and unprecedented accomplishment. It proves that we’re taking the stay-home order seriously. And so does the additional hundreds of dollars spent on food and booze, I guess? My grocery bill has never been higher, but our dining-out expenditures have never been lower. I did order […]

Read the full article →

Fitness for Cringey Moms and Grumpy Teens

March 26, 2020
Les Mills barre workout

Man, what a rollercoaster, huh? One minute we’re all, “This is an adventure! We’ll make waffles and watch movies!” And the next we’re wailing into our weighted blankets about how we’ll pay the bills or force our teens to do algebra for the next 2 months. Yep, as of yesterday, they’ve closed schools here in […]

Read the full article →

Thoughts on Anxiety at 3 a.m.

March 22, 2020

Two nights in a row now, I’ve woken up at 3 a.m. Why is it always 3 a.m.? It’s like my body has its own internal anxiety alarm clock. Time to wake up and obsess over every bad thing that could possibly happen!  This is particularly distressing to me because I am a big sleeper. […]

Read the full article →

How to Make Jell-O, and other Life Skills

March 19, 2020

So here we are, Day … oh, who knows? With schools closed and everything shut down, the days are all blurring together and each 24-hour period feels like 3 days. In some ways, though, our new reality is not that different for me. There are lots of jokes flying around the freelance/work-at-home community like this:  […]

Read the full article →

Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus

March 16, 2020

Hello readers, old and new! I haven’t been writing regularly on this blog for a few years, for a variety of reasons. But I’ve decided to start again, at least for the next little while. This is a historic time we’re living through, and it feels important to document it in my own words.  In […]

Read the full article →

Revisiting the Nutcracker

December 3, 2019

Here’s a look back at one of my favorite holiday posts. Ah, memories! Fritz could be my kid! I was thrilled to have this realization during one of my many, many viewings of The Nutcracker. I love The Nutcracker—the music, the dancing, the costumes. I am lucky enough to have seen it performed professionally several […]

Read the full article →

The Homeless Man at Breakfast

December 7, 2017

“Enough with the homeless man! Sit down and eat your yogurt parfait!” You know your parenting has gone awry if you find yourself hissing these words at your 8yo son in Panera, as I did one recent Saturday morning. Let me explain. Our family had decided to go out to breakfast. A rare occurrence, since […]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Read the full article →