Guest Post by Shea Carr: Letting It Go as a Mother


Here my great friend Shea lays out how we can all “let it go” a little when examining our lives as parents. Disney has made a new ballad full of advice for all ages: “I don’t care what they’re going to say” can apply to your own feelings of inferiority in the hustle and bustle of parenting as much as “concealing, not feeling” keeps us from true success and contentment. When we let the outward expectations and appearances cloud our judgement, we lose our way.

As Shea so articulately points out: If it’s good enough for Elsa, it’s good enough for us as Moms.

So belt it out ladies.

“The hugely popular Disney movie Frozen has captivated audiences for months and is sure to do so for years to come. There is no doubt it is excellent; illustrating themes such as unwavering familial love and devotion, the concept that true love is made rather than found, and that lighthearted optimism can be contagious. Yet I find myself haunted by the song “Let it Go.” Perhaps it is because I hear it everywhere: on the radio, from my five-year-old daughter’s CD player set on repeat, even sung a capella by my high school students. But I think the real reason I feel so troubled by this song is that I feel like it should be sung by a character representing me, a wife and working mother of two in her mid-thirties, laden with responsibility, not by young Elsa, a teenage girl.

As a history teacher, I have always been fascinated how popular culture has reflected concepts and themes from the time period, whether it be the strength and independence of Rosie the Riveter during the World War II era, or the carefree attitude of the 1990s represented by Ariel in The Little Mermaid, whose father supports her even though she decides to leave her family and live as a human on land. I have realized that the movie Frozen is no different. The overwhelming feelings of duty and responsibility that are placed on our children has been wearing at me over the past half-decade, and the song “Let it Go” does an excellent job capturing the daily struggles of American kids. Whether it is the unrealistic expectation created by the State Education Department that all students “should be” achieving an advanced level, or the reality that kids participate in a single sport year-round, sometimes playing on multiple teams during one season while also trying to attend school, complete homework, and on top of that, participating in additional activities.

The co-star of the movie Frozen is Elsa, who as a young girl isolates herself in an attempt to protect her sister from her dangerous powers. She lacks the support of her parents (after their death) or another trusted adult to help her manage her situation. In my role as a teacher, I frequently see students who lack the level of support needed to reach their true potential in school. When the State Education Department declares that all students “should be” achieving at an advanced level, I wish they would take into consideration that some of my students aren’t coming to school because they will soon be losing their home and moving to yet another school district, and that others don’t have a parent at home (perhaps because they are working extra hours to ensure that they have a home) to make sure that they eat well and get adequate rest, let alone do their homework.

Just like Elsa, these kids are isolated not by choice, but by circumstances beyond their control. Since their basic needs have not been met, the expectation that they obtain a level of achievement which has been determined by a policy-maker far removed from the realities of American children is completely absurd.

Later in her life, Elsa is expected to accept the duty and responsibility of being her country’s leader, while masking a personal struggle to manage her powers. I believe that the teenage Elsa represents the overscheduled American teenager. Expected to portray an outward facade of calm and composure, internally she is struggling to maintain her sanity due to an unrealistic expectation that she manage adult responsibilities despite the fact that she is a teen. This part of the story speaks to my role as a parent. Living in an urban area, the possibilities for kids to participate in various activities are endless. I frequently remind myself that just because you can sign your child up for any activity under the sun on a year-round schedule (heck, you can bring them almost every day if you want) that it doesn’t mean that you should have your kid participate with such frequency. Yet I think my perspective is in the minority of our society so I am constantly second-guessing these decisions; for fear that I might be denying my child some opportunity that his or her peers might be capitalizing on in order to get ahead in life. But the bottom line is that there is only so much time in the day…you simply can’t do everything.

As a working mom with young kids, I must remind myself that my children are putting in the same hours as me, first at school, then at after-care. When we finally get home, it is all we can manage to do homework, make a healthy meal, eat as a family, relax a little bit, take a bath, and get to bed at a reasonable hour. If we add in an evening activity, one of these things gets cut out. I don’t believe my family is alone in this situation. We should not depend on our kids to tell us that they are over-scheduled. As a parent, I believe it is just as important to provide them with opportunities as it is to tell our kids no in order to maintain mental a physical well-being.

So given the enormous popularity of Frozen, instead of writing it off as a kids’ movie and trying to block these catchy songs out of our minds, let’s capitalize on the opportunity to become more introspective about the isolation, duties and responsibilities that weigh on American children starting at a very young age. By providing much-needed support and taking a less-is-more attitude we can provide our kids with the tools they need to achieve true greatness.”

–Shea Carr, April 2014


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