One of the hardest lessons in childhood is learning to navigate friendships, and the wee ones are no different. Understanding what friendship means – who are your friends and which children aren’t – is something that they struggle with, as almost every child does. This struggle is shown so perfectly in the Disney movie FROZEN, where Anna believes that Prince Hans is her hero after the magical day she spends with him and how she writes off Kristoff because of assumptions she makes during their first encounter.
As much as I can lecture the wee ones about friendship and what it means, I find that it’s far more powerful to teach them lessons when I can use a book or movie or tv show to provide examples. I’ll pause an audio book in our car to talk about what a character did or didn’t do and how they might react in that situation versus how they – or the character – could better handle it. When we watch movies and tv together, so often we’ll talk about what we learn during it, and I love that the wee ones will bring up examples weeks later, showing me that they were paying attention and the lessons just might be sinking in.
The friendship lessons in FROZEN are a great example of this. Right now, Mister Man is struggling with defining who his friends are. Some of the kids who he likes that he’s been hanging out with are not, in my opinion, true friends. While they have some things in common, they don’t always have his best interests at heart, which he tends to ignore or gloss over. A couple weeks ago, we had a playdate where I had given Mister Man a heads up that any toy he doesn’t want that child to play with should be put up in his room and away. He chose not to, and the consequences were immediately evident in the aftermath of the play date.
His friend had seen the K’nex that Mister Man and I had spent hours putting together in careful detail so that the motors worked properly to spin the various parts and every piece was in place to play with easily. His friend simply took it apart with no regard to Mister Man asking him not to. There were pieces of it scattered over the floor, and Mister Man is still working on disassembling his friend’s new “creation” and trying to put the castle back together. He was distraught that his friend did this, not accepting my explanation that perhaps he should rethink spending time with a child who doesn’t respect him or his wishes.
When I remembered that FROZEN the movie was being released March 18, I knew that I had a perfect opportunity to talk about friendship. We had seen the movie in theaters (really, who hasn’t?), but we didn’t do the movie’s themes justice then. I made a special trip to Walmart to pick up a copy the day it was released.
I’m glad I got there early, because I was definitely not the only one who had this idea. While Walmart had displays in the front of the store with the movie, as well as in the electronics department and even with the FROZEN merchandise available in the Walmart toys department, I was shocked by how little was left.
Showing the immense appeal of FROZEN the movie, the DVDs were sold out up front and not many were left in the electronics display – and just about all the FROZEN toys and games and clothing were sold out. As a matter of fact, when I went to the toy area to pick up a few items, I was shocked that when I came back after a fruitless hunt in that section of empty shelves that the FROZEN merchandise that had been available in the electronics area was picked over, leaving almost nothing (including the woman I saw walking away with the last two wands in her cart). Even all the clothing options had been purchased before I managed to scour shelves! I love that this movie that celebrates such powerful themes as true friendship and the bonds of sibling relationships is so beloved by so many people, even as I lament my ability to join in the fad.
Fortunately, the DVD was still available – and on rollback for just $14.96 from $16.96 at that. There is also a coupon on specially marked packages of Eggo Waffles (24 count) for a $5 off offer on the FROZEN DVD. I picked up a copy and vowed to watch it again with the wee ones over spring break to reinforce what true friends are – and more importantly, what they aren’t.
The good news is that Mister Man is starting to get it. He came home from school yesterday talking about a boy that he’s been friends with for too long. “Mom,” he said, “I don’t think Peter is really my friend. I thought he was, but he doesn’t play nicely with me at recess and never helps me when I ask him. I think I’m not going to hang around him so much anymore.” That recognition, especially for a child with autism, had me sighing with relief and thrilled with his realization, hoping that he will only continue to recognize true friends going forward.
Part of recognizing true friendship, of course, is knowing how to be a true friend yourself. This is something I try to reinforce with the wee ones on a daily basis, and I was proud at both the wee ones’ conferences when their teachers went out of their way to compliment the wee ones’ sharing and caring natures towards their classmates. Even at home, I see evidence of this. When Mister Man is running late getting ready for school, Little Miss will go make his bed or pack his lunch for him so that he isn’t in quite such a panic. And when little Miss has gymnastics and Mister Man and I come home after dropping her off, he happily – and without me ever suggesting it – brings in her backpack so that she can start her homework when she gets home without having to go in search of it.
I’m lucky that they have such a great relationship where they love each other and take care of each other so well. When I told them that we were going to watch FROZEN last night and have a little #FROZENFun, they immediately snuggled up on the couch together with their cups of popcorn to enjoy the movie. And when Mister Man finished his popcorn before Little Miss, she poured some of her popcorn into his cup so that he could enjoy some more. It’s those small little actions that show me that get how to be a friend, a lesson I know will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
Even the FROZEN toy I brought home – Anna’s sled, which I think is a perfect discussion point as a toy since it figures so centrally into Anna opening her eyes and recognizing who is and who isn’t her friend – plays into their desire to be a friend. When I showed it to Little Miss, she asked if we could save it to open until next week when she had a playdate with a friend so that they could enjoy the new experience together. That thinking of others and how to make them happy, without any negative consequences to herself – is yet another show of her large and generous heart that I know understands friendship.
I know this path won’t always be smooth. There will be rocky places to come in the years ahead with friendship drama, but the more that I can help teach them now about recognizing friendship and ensuring their relationships are rock solid, the better off we will all be. It’s so easy to be dazzled by the cool kid in class who showers us with attention for their own purposes. Recognizing those selfish motives and determining whether they’re acting in our best interests will always be a challenge, but when the wee ones see their favorite characters not being taken in and learning from their mistakes, it gives them hope and faith that they can do the same.
I am so grateful to Disney for creating such a powerful movie as FROZEN with so many powerful messages in it that allows me to address friendship with the wee ones in such a positive and non-threatening manner. It is a wonderful tool, and being such a fun and enjoyable movie on top of that is just the icing on the cake.
This is a #collectivebias post, and I was compensated for writing it.