Did you spend your childhood being serenaded by one Disney princess after another? I know I did. And I loved every minute of it. Truth be told, I still do. I can Disney sing-a-long with the best of ’em.
And, okay, contrary to my headline for this post, I do allow my kids to watch all of my favorite tales, new and old. But I have to admit, some of the ideas that we learn from Disney leave a thing or two to be desired when it comes to what I want my girls (and boys) to learn about love and relationships.
Between the tale of Ariel and Eric and their forbidden love and the epic story of Belle and her Beast, we have become immersed in the idea that relationships are easy to build and that true love’s kiss will always save the day.
We can’t help being sucked into these magnificently manufactured narratives. These stories have deeply engrained into us the belief that our fairytale is out there and that someday we will find our Prince Charming and ride off into the sunset toward our own happily ever after.
My young mind was shaped by these tales. I spent my teen years holding tightly to all of the notions given to me by my beloved stories. I daydreamed about the boy I’d marry and filled my heart with hopes of how it would be when that day finally came. Up until early adulthood, I bought full in.
My concept about what love looked like wasn’t questioned until a great friend of mine (kindly) poked holes in it during a heart-to-heart. She had more life experience than I did, and while discussing hopes for the future, she simply said, “Alicia, I think you have very unrealistic ideas about what relationships look like. You need to let go of the idea that fairy tales are real. If you don’t, you are going to be very disappointed.”
In that moment, I was taken aback.
How dare she question the outline for my future and the plan that I had so carefully crafted?
After internally pouting about it at the time, I dismissed her statement for quite a while. But soon after, life happened, and I had my own love to figure out.
I quickly realized that my friend had been right all along. Love was not what I had expected. It was not fun all the time, it didn’t always make me want to break out into a musical number, and it was fabulously messy.
You know that overwhelming, gushy feeling that makes you want to hold hands and snuggle and gives you butterflies in the beginning? Yeah, well, that eventually fades…especially when things are complicated by managing a home, sharing finances and taking care of babies.
Speaking of babies, here are mine…
I could take 600 pics and I still wouldn’t get one of them all looking at the camera at the same time…
Anyway, so there I was, in the middle of my supposed-to-be-fairytale not having the experience that I was promised.
I expected things to be perfect, but they weren’t. My princess guides had forgotten to show me what to do when the good times weren’t so good.
So I had to learn it by myself.
Not gonna lie, guys, it was a long road. We had some really rough times in the beginning…times that I didn’t know if we would make it through.
I didn’t know how to communicate well and was always leaving it up to Matt to decipher my code (bad idea, ladies…just say what you mean.). And Matt would clam up and avoid any sign of conflict.
It seemed doomed. But somehow (probably through sheer stubbornness on both of our parts), we have made it. And this is what I have learned. This is what I want to pass on:
♥ Love is not what we see on the screen. It is what we don’t see.
♥ Love is choosing. It is choosing your partner every. single. day. It is choosing to stay and not leave. It is choosing to fix and not ignore. It is choosing to be all in, no matter what.
♥ Love is saying what you mean. It is not saying something and hoping the other gets the message…they won’t.
♥ Love is communication. It is talking through big feelings that are not fun to handle.
♥ Love is knowing that it is okay for explosions to happen as long as you stay to clean them up AS they happen.
♥ Love is locking the exit door.
So while we can let our kids soak up all the Disney greatness that we did, we shouldn’t until we resolve to teach them that love is not what they see there. It is so much greater than that.
Love takes a lot of time and even more hard work, but it is worth every bit of effort. And when you put in the hard work, it leads to holding hands and singing songs and dancing in the kitchen and daydreaming and your very own happily ever after.
So, yeah, go ahead and let them watch the fairytales and let them dream big about their own love stories.
But while they are doing this, don’t forget to teach them exactly how to make it happen.
Make a list of what you want to teach your kids about relationships, and then be that example for them. Be the voice of reason that tells them that fairytales are not real, but that if they are willing to work hard, they can find something even better. 🙂