Moana and Motherhood

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

When I first saw Moana, I rented it and put it on for my kids while I put groceries away one hot Phoenix afternoon. I made it about 15 minutes into the movie before I was completely sucked in.
Its one of those movies that afterwards I say, "Dang, I wish I had seen that in theaters!". But when you've got little ones at home and limited babysitters, movies at the theaters is not a thing. Heck, I didn't even get to see Rogue One when it came out for that exact reason, and its actually a grown up movie!

I've made up for missing Moana on the big screen by watching it almost every day since it was released. I'd blame it on my kid's obsession, but the truth is that I can't get enough. The music. The story line. The perfectly dynamic characters. The imagery. I didn't think it possible, but its my new favorite.

Moana is my "soul movie". My husband laughed when I told him that. With a smile he asked, "What is a soul movie?" Well mamas, I'll tell you. A soul movie is a fine piece of film art that speaks directly to your heart. It holds multiple layers of meaning to you personally. It may answer your deep questions. It may give you comfort during difficult times. It might give you inspiration or peace. Over the years, favorites may change, but a soul movie will always speak to you.

There are many lessons in Moana, but some of my favorite ones are about motherhood. I know, I know. The story is not about motherhood, but that doesn't mean I can't glean some pearls of truth from it anyway.

***Spoiler alert! If you haven't seen the movie, why are you even reading this? Go watch it and come back!***

Lessons on motherhood from Moana

My children are not mine. 

Since she was young, Moana felt a calling to sail the ocean beyond the barrier reefs of her home island. Her parents, afraid of allowing anyone to sail further for safety's sake, discouraged her from exploring the water for her entire childhood. Moana grew up understanding that every person played a role on her home island. She even wanted to embrace her role as the daughter of the chief and find content there; however, the pull of her dreams of the sea only got stronger as she aged. Watch the scene here. 

My children are no different. They have their own personalities, their unique mindset. They have their own dreams and goals to reach. Even if they aren't aware of it yet, their souls have a purpose that is specific to them. I have my children for a time only - to teach skills, to show love, and keep safe. In the end, while I may be their mom, and they may be my children, they are not mine to keep. They are their own person. Moana reminds me that no amount of discipline or distraction can drown the sound of dreams.

Parents can't meet every need.

My favorite character is Gramma Tala, Moana's grandma. Every story needs a wise old guide, and she is absolute perfection. Tala has a close relationship with Moana and ultimately is the catalyst for Moana to embark on her hero's journey. Throughout Moana's life, Tala is a constant source of guidance, encouragement, and wisdom. As the self proclaimed "village crazy lady", she is the quiet, constant force of teaching in her own way - through dance, storytelling, and her connection with nature. 

One of my favorite parts of the whole movie is right after Moana attempts to sail beyond the reef for the first time and completely fails. She takes this failure to mean that she isn't meant to sail the ocean and decides to stay and embrace her role on the island. When she tells this to Gramma Tala, who has always encouraged her to listen to her heart, Tala simply says "Okay!". Moana is confused and asks, "Why aren't you trying to stop me?" and Tala says, "That's what you said you wanted!" Watch the scene here.

Oh. My. Gosh. Can you guys even handle the wisdom? I would trade all the chocolate in the world for someone in my childhood to have loved me and encouraged me no matter what I decided to do. 

As parents, it is so easy to be so busy simply keeping our kids alive and functioning that we miss the nurture part. Moana's dad, Tui, was so keen on keeping Moana on the island so she would be safe that he missed nurturing her heart. As parents we need people that can fill the roles we cannot. 

Don't feel guilty mama. The makeup of modern motherhood implies that moms can be everything to their children all of the time. Not only is this belief a lie but it is literally impossible. Don't try it. I have and I'll be the first to tell you that it doesn't end well. Instead, I want us mamas to try relying on wise people in our lives. For a lot of moms that means relying on grandparents and family. Some moms have to function without those built in social constructs, but that should not stop us from finding good role models in our community. Teachers, church leaders, parents of friends, and coaches are all really awesome people to rely on.

Storytelling is an essential part of parenting.

One of the main themes of Moana is the importance of stories. Stories of ancestors connected Moana to her soul's purpose of "wayfinding" and bringing the tradition of voyaging back to her people. Watch the scene here. Mythology of her culture became a very real part of her life as she met demi-gods, monsters, and goddesses on her journey. Understanding an experience her father had with sailing increased her understanding for his unbending nature when it came to her fascination with the ocean.

Stories teach in a way that empty words cannot. Myths and bedtime stories provide a rich environment for exploring and teaching new and difficult concepts. Ancestral stories give a strong sense of deep connection to family and community. Personal life stories makes adults human and approachable, which are two great characteristics of a peaceful parent. 

Mama, don't be afraid to tell, give, and share stories with your children. I personally believe they are an essential building block of childhood. Read Harry Potter with your family. Tell your kids about the time you got in trouble because you snuck back out of the house after checking in for curfew. Give your budding reader a beautiful copy of your favorite book from your childhood. Watch Moana together. These are moments and gifts that connect you and your child in a way that nothing else can.

There are so many inspiring lessons and positive values taught in Moana. I'm literally obsessed with it. My daughter and I love watching it together and singing the songs. A few weeks ago she started asking me if she could have a "heart of Te Fiti". I looked on Etsy to buy one for her and they are near $25 a piece! I refused to pay that much so I made my own out of oven-bake clay and paint. They turned out so dang cute! I love watching her play with hers.

I made a batch of these to give to a few young girls in my life. I have one left over and I would love to send it to a lucky reader. So, mamas, tell me in a comment what lesson you learned from watching Moana. Your comment here on the blog counts as your entry! I can't wait to share my heart with you! (pun intended)



  1. I learned about bravery. I struggle with being brave, and as my kids grow, I see that my fears and anxieties rub off on them, but i want them to know that being brave is most helpful for ultimate happiness. I also like that Moana's method of defeating Te Ka is to love her. To remind her who she is and where her heart lies. I believe strongly in staying grounded, and I am striving to love my kids so much that they know their home will always be here as a safe landing spot for them...a place to remember what they believe, desire, and hold onto when life gets hard.

    1. Allison, I definitely get the bravery vibes too! Also, I think your point about Moana loving Te Ka is powerful. I hadn't thought of that. You are an amazing mom and your children are blessed to have am insightful, brave woman to guide them through this life. You go, girl!

  2. I love your blog. Keep up the awesome work honey. Xoxo

  3. You awesome!! I love it. I definitely misses a few of those points but totally see them now. My favorite lesson is learning to listen to your inner voice even when everyone around you is telling you different. Aaand Zoey is begging to drive to Arizona to get a heart of Te Fiti, so you might need to teach me how to make one when you come up! Or make that your next blog post 😉

    1. Kyla! I'm so glad you loved reading! I totally agree that listening to your inner voice is a strong theme in Moana. It can be so hard to listen to that voice when everyone around you doesn't understand. Luckily, if we listen, there is usually a Gramma Tala in all of our lives. Savannah lost my extra hearts when we came up. There's a whole bag of them somewhere in Sue's house. Zoey can definitely have one if someone finds them! ;)

  4. I LOVE reading your writing, Channing. You are so good with words, not to mention wise beyond your years!! I loved your insight on parenting from Moana, and I'm a little ashamed to admit that the parenting tips I gleaned from the movie were mostly what *not* to do. Which I guess is still functional in its own wright, but not always very productive in the long run.

    But if I had to choose a "spirit movie" of my own, it would probably be Singing In the Rain :) The Prince of Persia being a close second... I'd love to tell you why I love that one as much as I do sometime!!

    1. Thanks Kimberly! You know how to make me feel awesome! I'm so glad this spoke to you. There are definitely some strong "not-to-do" parenting examples in Moana to learn from. Its not a bad thing to notice them - it means you're paying attention!

      I have to tell you - I've never seen Singing In the Rain! Can you believe that? I'll have to watch it sometime. And I'd love to chat with you about your soul movie soon - I always love good talks with you.

      Also, you're the winner of the giveaway!

  5. I left a comment the other day but it is not here! So mysterious! I loved this post, thanks so much for sharing it. I loved this movie as well. I think it is remarkable that Moana feels this inner pull to do something different, but it is never for her own glory (like how Maui operated). I want to be someone who does things for others as well and not just for their praise and I hope I can teach my children that there is just a good feeling in doing things for the benefit of others.

    1. Oh dang! I'm sorry it ate your comment! I'll check the settings to make sure it doesn't happen again. Makes me wonder if that's happened to anyone else. Anyway, thank you for your sweet comment. I didn't pick up on how Moana never did it for her own glory. I LOVE that! I'd like to think that when you follow your heart, you do it just for the sake of doing so, rather than the recognition, because the recognition doesn't matter. I love that you picked that up, and that its something you are working on passing down to your kids. Keep up the awesome work, Mama!

  6. Thank you everyone for your sweet comments! The giveaway winner has been chosen (at random) and the winner is: Andrew-Kimberly Welch! Thank you all for your participation - it means the world to me to see you engage and leave such thoughtful notes for me.

  7. I really enjoyed this post! Even though I'm not a mom yet, I still see where you're coming from and you have great points. LOVE this movie!

    1. Thank you! I'm really glad you enjoyed it. Overall, I'm just happy to find another Moana lover!


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