Children Versus the World: Reflections on “It”

A couple of notes before I start. First off—I have recently begun teaching at a elementary school, so my interest in topics pertaining to childhood, growing up, and family have really caught my attention (you can see that in my post on “Hatchet”).  This one is in a very similar vein.

Second off—Spoilers below.  Also, “It” was terrifying.  I spent most of the movie with my eyes closed or my head buried in my husband’s shoulder.  Overall, it was a great Halloween-season horror–great horror without being excessively gory or gross.   Don’t see it if you can’t handle horror—I’m glad I saw it, but it was definitely great material for nightmares.

Overcoming Fear

The movie It focuses around a group of outcast children faced with the terrifying reality of a killer clown (I mean, no big deal, right?).  And this clown is scary.  I never really thought that clowns were all that scary but man this clown convinced me.  The clown feeds off of the children’s deepest fears: illness, fire, clowns (conveniently enough), and death.

I actually cried at the end of It.  Like, not out of fear.  In the end, the children band together and overcome their fears.  I was bawling bold, emotional, tears.  

Why? Because, there is so much truth in It.   Truth be told, the world swells with terrors for children: the unknown, loss, abandonment, abuse, bullying, all stings the heart of a child.  

In both Hatchet and It, we learn that overcoming your fears is something that you must do internally.  It is a personal choice.

But It takes it a step further.  It shows that the greatest lesson we can learn is how to love—how to struggle for each other, how to sacrifice for each other, how to overcome our fears for each other.

When I’m teaching these students, students with real, overwhelming struggles, I should work to foster their independence, their strength, their confidence.  But It has taught me something important: when I see a group of kids running around at recess, when I see a kid reach out to someone that’s left out, when kids are working together to solve their own conflicts…when these kids are at work at the school of love, they make the world a little less scary for each other.


Where are the adults?!?

So all that stuff about kids working together to overcome fear is all well and good.  Awesome.  But I have one major critique on It.

Well, maybe not a critique.  You could call it an internal debate.  In It, there are zero, absolutely zero adults who positively impact these children.   There’s the over-controlling, paranoid mom, there’s the angry dad who can’t cope with his grief, there are a couple abusive fathers, there’s the creepy guy working at the pharmacy, and there’s the grandpa whose brand of “tough love” may’ve forgotten about the “love” part.

There are no “good guy” adults, which doesn’t sit well in my stomach.  


The Debate

On the one hand, I think I see what the movie was going for.  These kids are called to be strong as individuals.  They need to face their fears on their own.  Some kids really are out on their own and need to overcome

On the other hand, I think that this negates the importance of adults working to support and encourage children.  For many of my students working through tough situations, they have awesome adults working to support them.  They have single parents struggling and sacrificing each and every day to give their children opportunities at a better life.  They have grandparents and friends who have reached out in support.  At my school, we are really blessed to have a team of loving faculty and staff who are mindful of each child’s individual struggles.  

Sure, kids need to learn how to overcome challenges.  Kids need to learn how to rely on each other. But that doesn’t change the fact that they also need the stability to know that they are loved unconditionally in face of these challenges.

For this reason, children need to be strong, but adults need to be stronger.   We need to face our fears, but our fears might not be clowns, they might come as money, work, friends, family, failure, rejection, depression, anxiety, the list goes on.

I’m more than a little tired of media that touts the power of children and disregards the importance of family and adult community.  Do you know what keeps children Catholic more than anything?  It isn’t Catholic peers or Catholic social gatherings. It’s parents first.  Another is having strong Catholic adults around them who are concerned about their life and encourage them in their faith.


My Horror Movie

I want to make some kind of horror movie where a group of parents and guardians are being pursued by monsters and they find that the only way to defeat the monster is by giving sacrificial love to their children.  Anyone with me?

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