A Quiet Place, Parenting and Anxiety

If, like me, you’re getting excited for the premiere of A Quiet Place Part II next month, I wrote a little reflection on its predecessor after watching it for the first time this fall.

Look, you probably saw this forever ago, but I finally sat down to A Quiet Place last week after several friends urging that a.) I’d like it and b.) I would probably sleep again, eventually, despite my deep hatred of scary movies. I was, as they’d predicted, blown away, and now you’re going to hear about it. The movie’s premise? Vaguely mantis-like monsters with extreme powers of hearing have killed just about everyone, and one family, now anxiously — and silently — awaiting the birth of a new baby, must figure out a way to survive. [spoilers below]

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A Quiet Place speaks to the best in what makes us parents: our desire to do anything to protect our children. Its mounting dread plays off our own fear for our children, and in its denouement it suggests that this parental devotion will ultimately be our salvation, both literally and figuratively.

But what saves his family in the end is more complex than simply Lee’s love for his children. Technology and education play a role, certainly — witness his spy-center basement complex, where he monitors the family’s farm — but more importantly, we must recognize that the weapon Lee’s family can finally use against the monsters, though created by Lee, is one Lee never envisioned.

Regan’s repaired cochlear implant is Lee’s creation, a labor of love, but its monster-paralyzing feedback is an unintended side effect. It was never designed to be a weapon, and it is Regan who eventually realizes its power. But for the device’s capacity itself — for that, I think we have to thank something (or Someone) beyond the Abbot family. Lee’s sacrificial love eventually saves his family, but it is not his cleverness or preparation that protects them in the end.

And after all, is this not how we see God working? He works through his creatures, but in a manner for which we can never claim credit. Here, certainly, are present human work, and practice, and sacrifice — all good in themselves — but that almost deus ex machina alchemy is all God.

In one of the few lines of dialogue in the film, Evelyn asks her husband, “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” The question is particularly heartrending when we consider all the ways the Abbot children haven’t been fully protected from the cruel world they now inhabit: everything from the children’s own palpable, ever-present anxiety to Regan’s lingering guilt over her brother’s death.

And the Abbots are more capable parents than most, even if they find themselves facing peril worse than most. Over the course of the film, we see them cannily wire surveillance systems, operate complicated radio equipment, tinker with hearing aids, survive a home birth, homeschool their young son, raise their own food and more — one critic identifies Lee’s ability to watch over the family as godlike in its “near-omniscience.” And certainly Lee’s final sacrifice is deliberately Christlike, his arms spread wide. But if it were just that single act of incredible sacrifice, he’d only be kicking the can down the road for his family, saving them only to be immediately snacked the next time the baby makes a peep.

A child is a gift, and we can no more safeguard one than we can direct-order them. Even those of us who live in more peaceful circumstances than those the Abbots know are all too familiar with miscarriages, unexpected accidents, and even the mundane hurts that come to every child as she’s bumped around by life.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Our love for our children is Christlike in its willingness to sacrifice, but it will never be enough to entirely protect them from the world. We can and must prepare them, with deliberation and wisdom, as the Abbots do, for the world they must inherit. But we also must, ultimately, place them in God’s hands.

 

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