This story was originally published December 03, 2019
A few minutes into Frozen 2Frozen 2, young Anna and Elsa climb into bed with their mother for a song and their mom gently strokes Anna’s forehead a few times with a long finger—downward like skiing off the tip of her nose—and, just like that, super wound-up, energetic Anna is sound asleep. It’s an entirely unrealistic scene unless you know, like I do, that the forehead trick actually works. Maybe not quite so quickly, but definitely as effectively.
I don’t remember how it started—probably out of desperation like so many parenting tricks and habits. I remember stroking their heads—so soft!—this way when they were babies. And then, when she hit her toddler years, my second daughter, in particular, seemed to never want to close her eyes at bedtime. There was still too much to see and do.
I had a fair number of evenings where I’d be whisper-yelling like only a truly exhausted person can, “Please just close your eyes,” before realizing that if I stroked the bridge of her nose, it would sort of force her to let her lids drop which eventually lead to sleep.
The forehead/nose stroke was such a part of our nightly routine for so long that my daughters came to rely on it for comfort when they were sick or needing extra help winding down.
“Can you go like this?” my older daughter would ask, running her own finger down her forehead when running a fever.
“Can you do the thing?” my younger daughter would say, pointing to the space between her eyebrows.
It’s magic, I’m telling you.
And Elsa and Anna know it. Later in the film, the sisters have a moment together where Anna uses the forehead trick on her sister when she’s in need of comfort. So the long-ago maternal act has remained a source of bonding for the sisters in the wake of their mother’s loss. It’s a lovely blink-and-you-could-miss-it detail in Jennifer Lee’s script—one that my daughters noticed and mentioned later when we all emerged from the theater.
“They did the thing,” my little one said, stroking her forehead.
“I saw!” I said.
“I didn’t know other people did that,” my older daughter said.
“Me neither,” I said.
“But they should,” the little one said.
I’m not typically in the business of giving parenting advice, but I think she’s right. We moms may not be able to conjure ice or control the elements, but that doesn’t mean that, in the quiet of our darkened bedrooms, we can’t work a little bit of magic of our own.