“To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
I throw this C.S. Lewis quotation at any adult who questions my love of Young Adult fiction or Disney movies. Lewis recognized the value of childhood, a child’s wonder and joy. He understood that many people lose this quality—the ability to see the joy and wonder in the world around them—as they grow up. Too often people forget what it’s like to be a child as they grow older, and their thoughts are filled with bills and deadlines instead of wonder and hope. But childhood is precious and needs to be protected. That is the premise of the Dreamworks animated film Rise of the Guardians.
Rise of the Guardians follows the story of Jack Frost, a boy with ice powers who wakes up with no memory of who he is or what he’s supposed to do. All he knows is that the moon called him. So for 300 years he wanders around creating snow days and snowball fights for kids. But when a new threat arises, the Guardians call on Jack to join their ranks to fight Pitch Black and his plan to destroy the hopes and dreams of every child in the world.
Jack joins the team of guardians—a pirate Santa Claus, an Australian Easter Bunny, a feathered Tooth Fairy, and a miming Sandman. Together, they set out to stop pitch as he tries to destroy hope and create fear.
One of the reasons I love this movie is the animation. It’s spectacular. Each of the guardians is unique, and the script is funny and deep at the same time. It’s a story about Jack discovering who he is and finding purpose in his existence. It’s a story about friendship and teamwork.
But at its heart, it’s a story about the preciousness of childhood. The Guardians exist to protect the children—to protect their hopes and dreams, to protect the joy and wonder they see in the world. And in return, the children protect them. Because the wonder of childhood is a strong force for good in the world, and we can’t forget that as we grow older. After all, eventually, inevitably, children become adults. But they become better adults if they don’t lose the things that made childhood so magical in the first place. If grown ups can put aside the fear of childishness, they can find joy in Disney movies, in Young Adult literature, in summer, in Christmas, and in all the world around them.
So go play. Go dream. Remember what it’s like to be a child.