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Here we sit. Our 5-year-old daughter on the arm of the couch (which in her mind is a sailboat), singing her heart out. Our 3-year-old son running around without his shirt on, waving a pretend fish hook. The baby is enjoying some Cheerios off the floor. And me sitting on the floor crying.

This was the scene while watching Moana. She identified with Moana, and he identified with Maui. We decided the baby could be the chicken, Hei Hei, since he was eating food off the floor. So, of course, I should have identified as the mother, Sina. But in one particular scene Sina made me question what kind of mother I want to be.

In the night, just as Moana’s grandmother is passing away, Moana finally answers the call to leave her island, sail across the sea, and save the people of her island. Leaving the island was forbidden and very dangerous. She had never sailed and really did not know exactly what it was she needed to do to save her people, other than find Maui somewhere on the massive ocean.

As Moana is packing, her mother enters the room. Moana looks at her and the look on her face says it all. She thinks her mother is going to stop her from this dangerous journey. And that’s exactly what I thought would happen. But instead, Sina helps Moana pack, and hugs her goodbye.

These few seconds hit me hard. Would I be able to be the mother? Would I be able to let my daughter, or either of my sons, go on whatever journey God and their hearts are calling them on? Would I try to stop them, or help them pack?

Come on, Disney. What are you doing to me?!

There seems to be two extremes. I want to protect our children from harm. But I want them to suffer small setbacks to prepare them for real life as an adult. I want them to be safe. But I want them to be brave and courageous. I want them to be content. But I want them to constantly be trying to achieve more.

I want them to soar and be everything they were created to be.

Finding the balance as a parent isn’t easy. We try to find ways to guide our children on their journeys, while allowing them to grow on their own. We can offer as many opportunities for growth as we can, while also trying to make day-to-day life function smoothly.

There may not be an answer to all this. We can be sad they are growing up, but excited to see who they are becoming. Feeling two different emotions isn’t easy, but it is okay. It is okay to want them to soar and want them to stay safe. The key is finding a balance to these feelings. We can take the time to enjoy their childhood, while also preparing them to be responsible, productive adults.

We can allow ourselves to feel two different things. We don’t need to try to repress one and focus on the other. We don’t need to shut off our intuition or allow fear to make our decisions for us. We can rest in knowing that it is okay, and even natural, to feel two emotions at the same time, and find ways to enjoy the fleeting time we have with our children while they are young.

And as for Moana, let’s just say I’m glad our 5-year-old daughter isn’t planning on sailing across the sea anytime soon. But when she’s ready, I pray we have prepared her enough to soar.

Would you be able to help your child pack for their big adventure?

Emily Scott

Emily Scott, PhD, is a stay at home mom of three, and part time parenting consultant and blogger who has written and spoken on various parenting topics including child development, ACEs, and tips on raising responsible kids. 

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It's bittersweet for a mother to watch her child grow—but you both are ready to soar.