This past weekend, we watched the latest release on Disney+, Encanto. It’s a spectacular story of a family’s fight to survive mixed with a sweet coming of age story for an adolescent who just isn’t sure of her place. With music by Lin Manuel Miranda, it’s both funny and poignant. If you haven’t seen it yet, switch over to Disney+ for a watch and come back when you are done. Spoilers are ahead!
In a movie filled with potential psychology lessons from controlling grandmother to the outcast uncle, the most moving part was the song “Surface Pressure” song by the incredibly strong Luisa (played by Jessica Darrow). Luisa and her super-strength (her magical power in a family filled with magical power) keep the town together by moving any heavy object that is in the wrong place from a herd of donkeys to the local church.
When Encanto‘s hero, Mirabel, notices that Luisa’s strength might be faltering, her question triggers a dynamic melody exposing the pressure and stress that lie beneath Luisa’s strong exterior. There are so many nuances to the lyrics that follow first showcase Luisa’s strength and then reveal her own self-doubt.
“Under the surface, I’m pretty sure I’m worthless” cries out Luisa almost as if it is an anthem to the anxiety we find constantly surrounding our lives. She’s struggling with meeting the demands that others place on her and wonders what will happen “If I could shake the crushing weight of expectations. Would that free some room up for joy? Or relaxation, or simple pleasure?” In other words, can I just stop, even for a little bit?
Encanto’s Message to Parents
As a parent, Encanto‘s “Surface Pressure” speaks to the daily stress that challenges us and the constant risk assessment that yet another variant of COVID brings. Do I push for virtual school or encourage my child’s school to stay open? Can we visit with relatives that we haven’t seen or should we bunker down again? Add into this mix the worry that we have about the lasting impact that the COVID pandemic will have on our children and ourselves.
At the same time, just like Luisa, we need to move mountains and be “as tough as the crust of the earth.” Laying down our burden just doesn’t seem to be an option for us and we’re liked in the same trap as this character in Encanto.
Spoilers – by the end of the movie, Luisa realizes that she can rest and take a break. In fact, doing so is an important part of allowing herself to pick up her burdens again. For parents, the message is that we too need to take a moment for self-care. It can be just a minute to take a deep breath or allow the laundry to pile up for a few days. Skipping a homecooked meal in favor of takeout or dinner from a box (I’m looking at you Wacky Mac!) isn’t going to create a disaster. Creating space for self-care means building back up your resilience.
Encanto’s Message to Kids (and Their Parents, too)
When I re-watched the music of Encanto for this blog post, I realized that like many kid’s movies, it has multiple layers. The rhythm of the melody of “Surface Pressure” reflected the descriptions of stress and anxiety of so many people that I speak to. The need to perform at a high level and not crack plagues so many of our kids, particularly high school students. The demands of keeping it safe in a pandemic have eliminated so many of the normal opportunities that kids have to just be kids because we’ve filled them with the stress of avoiding infection. The music reflects the constant push of stress and anxiety. Finding them the support and allowing them to release the pressure is so important.
As we deal with the challenges of another winter of COVID-19, we’re going to need to listen to how our children and ourselves manage the pressure. Will we start to fall apart like Luisa does as the movie progresses? Or will we build on our resilience by engaging in self-care and creating places for everyone to blow off a little pressure?