I just tweeted about this, but thought – hey! New year, new adventures, let’s get back to this blogging thing. I want to be more creative and flex my writing muscles more, so, perhaps, my first instinct shouldn’t be a threaded tweetstorm, but a blog post.
Anyway. I digress.
Let’s talk about Bean and Moana.
For anyone reading this who doesn’t know, Bean is my kid. She’s currently four years old. She is a delight, a challenge, a light, and the love of my life. (No offense meant to my spouse.)
When I first heard about Moana, Disney’s latest animated adventure, I bookmarked it as something I’d like to take Bean to for several reasons. I want her to see strong, brave, smart, kind women on screen. I want her to see stories from other cultures and people. And I loved the idea of her seeing a movie – animated or not – that didn’t have a single white person in it. I also loved that there was no romantic subplot.
We went to see it opening weekend, I think, and we both loved it. It was, simply, joyfully, a rollicking adventure about a girl finding her destiny and learning to trust herself.
The music was pretty awesome, too.
Then Bean asked to go and see it again, so we did.
Then she asked to go and see it again, so my spouse took her.
And she’s still asking if we can go see it again. She loves Moana. We listen to the soundtrack on a loop when we’re in the car (and sometimes during dinner). We read one of her Moana books every night at bedtime. She reads stories to her Moana tsum tsums and has tea parties with her Moana dolls.
(BTW, there’s nothing like the image of the tattooed demigod Maui ordering the mint tea and a biscuit at a tea party.)
We are all Moana, all the time at Casa Celt is what I’m saying.
But here’s what’s amazing to me. Bean is talking to us about Moana. She asking about character motivation. She’s asking why certain events transpire and what she thinks it means. She’s working out that there is more to the story than what’s on the screen and trying to figure what all of that means.
It’s incredible to watch. To see her edging around discovery. To see her beginning to understand that stories are often deeper than what’s on the surface. And to see her actively trying to work out what Moana is all about.
She’s beginning to think critically about things, to think symbolically about things. And it’s freaking amazing. She asks us what we think, tells us what she thinks. She wants a give and take, though she’s just beginning to understand what that is.
And it’s mind blowing.
It’s funny how little things like this make me realize what an unbelievable thing parenting is. How gobsmacking it is to watch a person forming and emerging.
From my perspective, being the middle-aged woman I am, it’s so easy to take knowledge for granted because I know it. I understand what it means to interpret and dissect stories. I know what symbolism is. I know how to spot themes and subplots, how to speculate about character’s motivations.
I forget that all of that was new to me at one point. That I had to learn that.
Watching my daughter go through this discovery on her own, is humbling and wonderful. She is figuring this out, she’s beginning her journey. And it’s marvelous, in the purest sense of the world. I marvel at her, at her cleverness, at her imagination, at her empathy for fictional characters and their trials and tribulations.
She knows the world is bigger than it seems. She’s beginning to see that our stories often are, too.
I couldn’t be more proud. And I can’t wait to see what she discovers next.
A quick, sort of related aside:
So, there’s a giant crab monster in Moana named Tomatoa. His species – as far as I know – is never identified – mostly because I think “giant crab monster” is about as specific as it needs to be. But, the key thing about Tomatoa is that he’s gathered shiny treasures and covered his shell in them.
Out of nowhere, Bean speculated that Tomatoa must be a decorator crab because he’s covered his shell with things. As she put it “He’s a decorator crab because decorator crabs gather things up on their shells to hide themselves, which is why he probably has so much stuff.”
She’s learned about decorator crabs from watching Octonauts, but to make that leap knocked me over. She’s truly thinking about the story, about the characters, and trying to apply what she knows – her worldly 4 years of experience on this earth – to Moana.
And she’s practicing being a good little biologist, too, what with the deductive reasoning for the species identification, too.
Oh, she is my heart.