If you have Disney+ you will have probably seen their new new movie Encanto, and hopefully you’ll agree with me that it’s an amazing movie! While showing some much needed representation of Latinx communities, it also tackles some difficult themes of generational trauma and family dynamics.
I, however, saw this movie in the MediCinema at the QEUH while my daughter was admitted to the hospital. So the themes for the movie were telegraphed by the short that was played beforehand “Far From the Tree”, and if you haven’t watched this yet I highly recommend you do – it’s on Disney+. (SPOLIERS AHEAD) In it we see a mummy racoon and a baby, the mum with a scar and missing an eye, who go out hunting for food. The grumpy mum seems intent on ruining the baby’s fun, stopping her exploring and playing on the beach. But when the baby is chased and scratched by a hungry wolf we see the mum scold the baby (who now has a scar) and they sit apart on a tree branch, both upset and hurt.
Fast forward to the baby now a mum herself, repeating the same pattern of controlling her baby for their own good. Not allowing play or exploration for fear of losing her child. And here is where I loved it – the mum catches herself shouting at the baby and remembers how she felt as a child. We then see her break the cycle and on the same branch where she felt so alone she pulls her child in close and explains the risk and how she got hurt. They then start exploring together, with the wee one on her back so she can keep them safe.
While this is just a short animation I found myself crying and cuddling into my little girl who was (I felt) to close to harm for my liking. It packed a lot into those short moments and I related heavily to the mum losing her temper because she was scared. I often feel gentle parenting forgets that the parents have emotions they struggle with as well, so it’s worth reminding ourselves that if we react poorly the best thing to do is explain the reaction, apologise if appropriate, and talk about how you will work to react better next time. Then put it into action. Show them you are always trying to be the best parent you can be – even on those days when things go badly wrong. And if, like me, you get it wrong a lot of the time, that you model the behaviour you want them to learn – give yourself grace.
So here is a call to let your kids see you are human. Who knows, maybe you’ll all grow?