So I guess you’ve probably realised by now that my children aren’t really called Anna & Elsa. I’ve chosen not to use their real names to give them some sort of anonymity. But there is also a very good reason to adopt the pseudonyms I use. Let’s just say the magic started in our house when Anna was a year old . . .
Anna never ever settled during the day as a baby, I mean never ever, unless she was sleeping and she didn’t do much. Nothing could distract her and she would get fed up quickly if not on the move or being carried in a baby sling. Since the first time Anna was on the move, and effectively for the following 2 and a half years of Anna’s life, she was literally in to everything. Emptying cupboards, throwing anything she could get her hands on, pushing things up the chimney, down the back of the radiator, climbing on anything and everything, despite the height or danger it offered and life was, shall we say, a permanent struggle to ensure that Anna was safe. So basically I’ve been operating at Defcon 2 for three and a half years now. I looked up the official meaning of Defcon 2 and it says ‘Armed Forces ready to deploy and engage in 6 hours’. I would say that in my case it’s more me, armed and ready to deploy in 6 seconds in case of a sideboard jump off, a full scale window climb or just general mischief making where so often danger can lurk. If something can be explored then Anna will explore it, be that objects or surroundings.
I had taken Elsa (AKA Anna’s big sister) to see Frozen in the cinema some months before and she loved it (so did I the first time, I’m not too sure about it now after the 999th time). As soon as it came out on DVD I bought it for the girls. From the second it started playing Anna was mesmerised and so the powerful magic began.
I have no idea what it is about Disney that captures Anna’s attention so fully, but it does and when she watches a Disney film she is animated; she laughs out loud, she trys hard to copy what the characters are saying/singing, she knows what’s coming next after only having watched it a couple of times, and she acts out their actions. Watching Anna watching a Disney film is an absolute joy to behold.
Last year we watched ‘Inside Out’ for the first time, and now one of Anna’s favourite sayings is ‘I die!’ as in ‘I die for Riley’. But when Anna says it she sounds like a character in a Shakespeare play; full of drama and with a glint in her eye as she smiles when she says it. If you repeat it back then this is hysterical to Anna, and she will say it even more. (That was an interesting conversation with her nursery as I don’t think many 3 year olds run around quoting such bizarre lines). Incidentally, Anna also says everything with a french accent, I have no idea why, but it’s one of Anna’s many quirky qualities, which I absolutely adore.
Disney has become a form of communication to us; if we base our communication on Disney Anna wants to get involved, she will play with all the characters (we have now amassed tons of them and trust me, treading on a Disney character in the dead of night whilst trying to find the lost teddy/batteries for the night light/drink of water is excruciating). The songs and phrases from the films always guarantee to bring a smile to Anna’s face, even on the darkest of days and in the most stressful of moments. Disney seems to get through to Anna in a way that sometimes I can’t.
So here we are; it’s 4.30am, which yesterday morning would’ve been 5.30am because the clocks went back this morning. We’ve come away for the weekend to a lovely little cottage in Sussex. We all needed a break and it’s been great to get away. But 4.30am is an early start, one that thankfully happens a lot less than it used to as Anna spent the first 3 years of her life, from the day she turned 12 weeks old, waking at 4.30am. Every. Single. Day. Once she’s up there’s no going back to bed as she just can’t seem to settle. But my saving grace is that we bought our Disney Collection with us, and right now we’re snuggled on the sofa watching Zootropolis.
Disney has an effect on Anna like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Incredibly, whilst nothing else really holds Anna’s attention, apart from water and trust me, I could write a whole book about that, Anna is able to watch an entire Disney film. Disney, quite literally, is my sanity saver. Anna doesn’t spend her entire day watching Disney films, obviously not, but Disney helps to settle Anna when it’s clear to me that she wants to settle but finds it difficult to do so.
Disney has become so ingrained in our lives that it would be virtually impossible for me to imagine life without it. I can’t tell you any of the songs in the top 20 these days, but I know all the words to almost every Disney song released in the last 10 years. Somebody asked me what I fear the most about the future and I answered instinctively and said ‘a power cut’. Because I do, and that probably seems like I’m a really lazy mother, but Disney films are the thing that can calm Anna if she’s having a rough day, or when she’s really tired and she just can’t settle.
It’s not just the actual films either. We have found homes for all sorts of Disney figures and I think we can safely say that you will find at least one figure in every single room of our house. The big new fave is ‘Mr. Big’ from Zootropolis. Anna will actually reinvent the scene bending to kiss Mr. Big’s hand just like in the film.
As Anna has got older, she likes us to all join in with acting out the Disney films too. I know all the words to all the songs, and if we’re out and about and she’s fed up and starting to get the look of ants in her pants then I only need to start singing a Disney song before she smiles, becomes distracted and instantly calms. So if you see a woman in the supermarket singing a rendition of Disney songs whilst doing shopping oblivious to the stares she may be getting from other shoppers, then know that that woman may be. (When Elsa was just a few days old, my husband couldn’t remember any children’s songs and in a moment of crisis, the only song he could think of to sing to her was the theme tune from Dad’s Army. It worked though, and that song stayed with us for quite some time, and so whenever Elsa was unsettled we’d break in to a rousing rendition of ‘Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler’).
I like Disney for the diversity it shows amongst the characters. Take nemo for example with one fin much smaller than the other, it doesn’t stop him achieving (despite his father’s overly protective stance), or Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph who has a ‘glitch’ in the arcade game and achieves her dream of winning the race. Then there’s Mike from Monsters Inc who is the most unscary Monster in the history of scream collection, but nevertheless Mike works really hard, much harder than all of his colleagues have to, and becomes a scarer anyway, discovering that laughter is in fact much more powerful than fear (I couldn’t agree more). And then of course, there’s Dory, my personal favourite, who suffers from short term memory loss. I know that Disney has helped to teach my children that whilst everyone is different to each other, different does not equate to less.