It took me a bit to figure out why I was having such a visceral reaction to the Netflix Originals series Dragons: Race to the Edge. But when I finally figured it out, it made perfect sense.
This DreamWorks animated show is related to the feature films, but takes place between the first and second movies. Whereas the first How to Train Your Dragon was Hiccup finding himself discovering how to interact with people in his world, the show takes place a few years later. Hiccup and the dragon riders are older — well into their teenage years — and teeming with youthful pride, arrogance, and that unavoidable yearning for independence.
As you can see from the map above (taken at DreamWorks during an event last month), the center is their home island of Berk. When the first movie started, that hunk of rock was all Hiccup knew. It was his world and his entire universe. But after befriending dragons and using them as a means to explore, their world got a lot bigger.
That’s great for my 7-year-old, who binge-watched this as his summer vacation started and marveled at all the new adventures the characters were having and all the fresh discoveries of new lands and types of dragons. He wants to be Hiccup and Astrid and Fishlegs, out there in the brave new world making important and exciting discoveries. And who can blame him?
As for me, I found myself commiserating with Stoic, Hiccup’s dad. Why? Because he was struggling with conflicting emotions regarding his son going off into the world. He’s a protector, and that protection has always come by gathering everyone together on the island of Berk to keep everyone safe. Safe at home. Safe from harm.
But even in fictional worlds set in a time long since gone, parents still struggle with letting go.
I realized I was relating to this show because the kids (and the dragons) are literally leaving the nest. Stoic is watching his son leave home and establish his own identity with equal parts pride and worry. For parents, the toughest part of kids growing up is letting them stand on their own two feet and losing the ability to protect them at all times.
So as Hiccup and gang explore dangerous new places, deal with conflict both internally as well as taking on enemies, and learn to survive on their own, I just keep looking at Will and wondering how I’ll cope.
Right now his map is our small New England town. But as he gets his proverbial dragon wings, that circle will grow. Breakneck bog will be the next town over when he can ride his bike on his own. His driver’s license will take him to SnowWraith Island with friends. And it’ll be the far-flung Eret’s Island if he decides to go far away for college and life afterward.
Will watches Dragons with wide-eyed enthusiasm and longing for adventure. I watch it through Stoic’s eyes. The eyes of a parent. Eyes that get occasionally moist with a mix of pride and worry at the thought of my son striking out on his own, outside of my direct protection.
I’d feel a lot better if he could take Toothless to college.
I was compensated by Netflix for writing this post in the form of an all-expense paid trip to DreamWorks Animation in California. Also, as part of the StreamTeam, I received free Netflix for a year and an iPad Mini. However, as always, my opinions are 100% my own. Check out Netflix on Facebook.