I think Hettie was probably the last 5-year-old girl in America to see the movie Frozen. You try sitting quietly in a dark theater with my busy little people for over an hour. Regardless of how captivating the on-screen diversion, how tightly sealed the sippy cups, how equitably divided the popcorn, how recently emptied the bladders... something always turns into an earsplitting crisis that leaves me with an entire auditorium of people wishing I'd just been a little patient, stayed home, and rented it on Amazon.

But this weekend, Dave was out of town and the kids had been really good and it was awfully bad weather and I desperately wanted to get out of the house but I really didn't feel like trying very hard to wrangle or entertain once we got wherever we were going. So I took a deep breath, sent a quick message to a pal (because everything's better with backup a friend!), and took the kids to the movies.

And, miraculously, there was no crisis. We watched an entire movie and nobody in our company hit/bit/stole/screamed/peed/pooped/spilled/barfed/stripped/ran away/became hysterical when a perfect stranger chose not to relinquish a silo-sized Mountain Dew. It was awesome. And so was the movie. I absolutely loved it. Also -- who knew Kristen Bell can sing?! She held her own in a duet with Idina Menzel, for crying out loud. If I had a tiara, I would tip it in her general direction.

But as we left the theater, with the lovely songs and sisterly affection and fairytale Scandinavian snow all swirling around my head, something nagged at the corner of my mind. And I couldn't pin it down. And it's been bugging me all weekend. And I think I've finally got it.

What bothers me is this: Somewhere between saving one daughter's life and teaching their other to suppress and hide her remarkable gifts, two loving parents -- a king and queen, no less! -- screwed up their kids so badly that the consequences nearly destroyed not only their family but their entire world.

We all know that every Disney movie has a subversive subtext. This one just happens to feature one of my own personal demons.

Because it's true, right? No matter how well-intentioned we are, no matter how blessed our circumstances, no matter how tireless and tender and well-researched our nurturing, no matter how much love and care and hard work and faith and sweat and passion we pour into our kids, no matter how we exhaust ourselves trying to do everything right, we won't. Even the very best parents with the very best luck are still going to screw up their kids.

And then, we will die and leave them alone.


But there is hope. Because all this goes down in just the first 20 minutes of the movie. Isn't parenting kind of the same way? All this stuff that seems so incredibly important happens right at the beginning of their precious, perfect little lives. And it is important. But it's also just prologue. History and scripture -- and Disney! -- have shown that their little spirits are stubborn and resilient. They have an innate spark that no horror, and no rotten parenting, can extinguish completely. They are blessed, as we all are, with the power to make their own choices. They write their own stories, fight their own demons, sing their own songs. And it's terrifying. But also a little bit freeing.

We can -- and we should! -- wear ourselves out in this epic adventure of parenting, helping our little heirs in every way that is healthy and possible. And then we have to, uh...

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go build a snowman.