Saturday, September 7, 2013

There's a Little "Disney Parent" in All of Us

We have officially entered the "princess" phase in our home. A loving gift from my mother of the movie "Cinderella" in July has yielded an obsession in our two year old daughter. She has fallen in love with the music and Cinderella--it is not unusual for her to ask questions such as "What is Cinderella doing right now?" We are excited to take her to Disneyland to see Cinderella on our next trip to visit family, and I will thank Cinderella for her help in encouraging potty training (when I found Disney princess panties at Costco, it was a great day).

As we have tried to branch out beyond Cinderella, I've had the opportunity to screen some other Disney movies. Someone told me that Disney isn't particularly nice to mothers, and I have to agree. If you are a stepmother, just don't watch Cinderella. We looked at Brave and Tangled--not a good portrayal of mothers. There isn't even a mother present in Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, the mother plays a passive role in Lion King, and don't even start me on Bambi. Sleeping Beauty is arriving at our home any day--I am relieved to have a movie coming that will allow me to describe the villain as a witch, rather than the stepmother!

I am not sure the fathers fare much better. Little Mermaid is scary, particularly when the king destroys his daughter, Ariel's, possessions in a fit of anger. The father is eccentric in Beauty and the Beast, needing his daughter to care for him.

Setting aside Disney's motivations...I have come to realize that there is a little "Disney Parent" in all of us. As the mother of a two year old who is verbal and independent, yet also nonrational and only two, I have moments I want to put her in her bedroom, lock the door, and put the key in my pocket just like the stepmother in Cinderella. I also, at times, want to burn the Cinderella DVD because I am tired of arguing about whether it is a "movie day," just like the father in Little Mermaid. I know that there are mothers out there who distantly push their daughters to achieve as much as possible, like the mother in Brave, or mothers who want to protect their daughters from the outside world, sometimes to obsessive extremes, like the mother (or pretend mother, actually) in Tangled.

Fortunately, my Disney parent moments are short-lived and now I have a name for them. The take-home message for me as I watch these movies is two-fold. First, watch the movie with your child! Only you can process and explain what he or she sees. Even a Disney movie, rated for children, has complicated themes and needs to be processed in an age-appropriate way. In our home, we talk a lot about "good choices" and the importance of being a good helper, something that we can glean from Cinderella without making this about stepmothers or stepsisters. Second, even on my worst days, I'm not a creepy tyrant, a baby-stealing witch, a distant queen, or an eccentric inventor (last I checked). The Disney parent reminds us that we all have moments where we aren't our best selves...and we should accept that we can't be perfect all of the time, but we are responsible for making  "good choices" with our children. In Judaism we have the idea of the evil inclination and the good inclination--never is that more apparent when dealing with a challenging parent moment (with children of any age). Said a different way, we have the choice to be a "Disney parent" or to be the best version of ourselves. Let's choose goodness and unconditional love...and pray they never make a movie about us.


  1. Thank you so much for writing this. As a mother of a 2 year old in a "princess free" home I find myself wanting to relieve those great Disney moments with my own little one and then realizing that the themes of the movies aren't as wholesome and fun as I remembered them to be. This is great food for thought on parenting. As you said, as parents are also not always the parent we want to be in every moment. But we are always striving for our best.

  2. This beautiful article about the positive ways in which Disney informed a person with autism's worldview has been making the rounds this week:
    I'm not sure if you've read it yet. I just subscribed to your blog and was reading through the last few posts and made the connection. Lisa