If you have kids, you’ve probably watched the movie Moana, seen clips or heard the music. I took my daughter to see it in the theaters not long after it came out and I loved it. We’ve watched it a few times since then and it’s a movie that we can all enjoy together as a family. Soon after the movie came out, I started seeing different people post about their favorite scenes or lessons from the movie. And each one I read never mentioned the one thing that struck me most as a parent: Moana’s mom.
When I was growing up and watching all the classic animated Disney movies, I never really paid much attention to the fact that so many of them, especially the princess movies, didn’t have mothers: Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine, Snow White and Belle (just to name a few). It wasn’t until I had kids of my own and started watching these movies with my kids that I became more bothered by it and question it: How different would these movies have been had the main characters had their mother in their life? Would they have even come into existence? Why is it the mother that so often dies? Obviously, there are Disney movies where the mother is present and these always touch my heart, such as Mulan, Rapunzel and now, Moana.
From the beginning of the movie, Moana’s mother, Sina, is a constant figure in her life. She encourages her to fulfill her responsibilities, teaches her the necessary skills and is a listening ear and voice of comfort when Moana becomes frustrated. She sees her daughter’s struggles and desire to be on the water and does her best to help ease the pain. As her mother, she also wants to protect her daughter from the dangers beyond the reef. Sina is playful, smart and strong-willed, much like her daughter.
I see myself in Sina and I see my daughter in Moana.
There are two scenes that always get me when it comes to Moana’s mother. They are brief but make an impact on me and I love how Disney portrayed them.
The first is when Moana’s grandmother is ill and she tells Moana she needs to leave and take the heart to Maui and return it to Te Fiti. The rest of her family is preoccupied with the grandmother and no one seems to notice her rush out the door and to her family’s hut to pack supplies for her trip. But then, right in the middle of her packing, her mom appears in the doorway, out of breath and with a look of confusion when she sees what Moana is doing, and then realization hits her and she knows exactly what Moana is doing. Rather than stop her or scold her, she kneels down and helps her gather the rest of what she needs for her journey. She recognizes that as much as she doesn’t want Moana to go, that this is something she has to do.
Moana and Sina hug and the final look shared between mother and daughter always brings tears to my eyes because so much is conveyed by that one look: fear, hope, determination. I imagine myself and my daughter and even my son. My kids are only 5 and 3, but they are becoming their own individual people with their own personalities. As they grow, they will be faced with hard things and I won’t be able to shield them from everything that comes their way. I can only do my best to teach them and prepare them and build a strong relationship with them so that when they need someone to talk to, they know they can come to me for love, help and support.
The second scene is at the very end when Moana returns home. Sina is the first one to turn and see Moana’s boat and she’s up and running toward the beach with her husband behind her. Moana rushes into her mother’s arms a split second before her father comes up and hugs both of them. It’s such a short scene but you can see the relief and pride and happiness so clearly. I’ve felt these same feelings with my own kids when they do something that makes me a little nervous that they might fail, but then seeing them succeed and being filled with joy.
On this parenting journey, we are going to experience (and have experienced) happiness, joy, heartache, worry, sadness and so many other emotions. I’m so grateful for these beautiful reminders that as parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our children to the best of our abilities and then trust them as they try out their wings. They are going to fall. They are going to fail. But they are also going to succeed. And I want to be there when they come running.