A Wrinkle in Time—the movie based on one of the most inspirational books of my girlhood—is finally in theatres and I could not be more excited for my kids to see it. I got a chance to screen it ahead of the release, so I already know that my four youngest kids—ages 2, 4, 14 and 17—will enjoy it. But it will also teach them some new lessons, and reinforce some older ones—lessons that will guide them as they navigate the world outside of my reach. Here are seven wonderful, important things your kids will learn from A Wrinkle In Time. NOTE: Mild spoilers ahead.
1. Parents are human, and humans are fallible. We’re all a bit like Meg’s dad (played by Chris Pine). Although he loved his family, he messed up when he couldn’t resist the draw of ambition that led to his disappearance for four years. He never intended to abandon his kids, but he made decisions that led to that happening. Meg’s dad is human, so he is prone to mistakes.
2. Trust your own instincts above anything else. When faced with a difficult situation, it can be hard to know the best choice to make. But all humans have an instinct, a “gut feeling” that something is right or wrong. Everyone, including kids, should follow it. A child’s instincts are their brain’s way of picking up information they may not know it has. It has processed that information and determined, for example, that Meg should not abandon her search for her father and go home with her head in her hands. Instead, she followed her instincts, which led to a powerful split-second decision and eventually to her dad.
3. When you love yourself, you can make room to love others. When kids hate the way they look, sound, walk or even think, those thoughts fill their heads and get in the way of everything else, including loving another person. Meg truly does not like herself and struggles throughout the film with her “faults,” including loathing her body. But she eventually comes to see that hating herself distracts her from the important things in life. She must love herself in order to experience the sheer power of love for someone else.
4. Embrace your faults. My kids struggle with ADHD or dyslexia that they inherited from my husband and me, respectively. We tell them all the time that the “symptoms” of the conditions are more like superpowers that make us different in a good way from neurotypical people. A Wrinkle in Time illustrates this well in the Gift of Faults Meg receives and in the way she uses that gift to get away from darkness in the universe. Meg must reframe the way she looks at the things that make her unique—what an amazing lesson for all kids.
5. Fear is natural and shouldn’t always be avoided. I absolutely love how this film carries over author Madeleine L’Engle’s treatment of fear from the book. Fear is a natural reaction to when we’re faced with something unknown or difficult. It is not something to avoid. Meg figures this out when she has to plunge headlong into the darkness to save her loved one. She does not know what’s on the other side. In fact, the darkness is terrifying. However, avoiding the dark and returning home would mean leaving someone she loved behind. She also would have missed some important things that facing fear taught her about herself.
6. Always ask questions. As a kid, I lived in a house where religion dictated everything, and we were not allowed to ask questions about any of it. That upbringing was dark and fraught with some damaging secrets. I never want that for my kids. I encourage them to ask questions, even when the person they question is me or another adult. Questions breed not only knowledge but also transparency—a lesson Meg learns in the film when the Mrs.’s take her to someone she does not trust, to do something she does not think is beneficial to her trip. Meg’s questions force the adults to unload the secrets and tell the whole truth, even when the answers are not easy to say or hear.
7. Be a warrior. This is like a mantra throughout the film, driving the kids forward. It will stick in your kids’ heads and hearts after the film is over. “Be a warrior” means going after what you truly want with all your strength and never backing down. Director Ava Duvernay depicts this several times in the film, but none better than the final battle where Meg gets knocked down countless times. Instead of staying down or running away, she fights over and over again. Eventually, she wins. Sometimes it may take more than one try, but warriors fight no matter how long it takes.