Friday, July 23, 2010
Leaving the Innocence of Family Love
This post originally appeared on BlogHer in February 2009. Thankfully, Dova has outgrown the Disney princess cult since then.
When my daughter was born, my then three-year-old son assumed that he was going to marry her. It was a sweet notion, which someday we would have to dispel. As my daughter grew and started talking, she also claimed that she was going to marry her brother. My husband and I were extremely grateful that they got along so well and didn't take the route of fighting and squabbling. But when do we break this bubble for them?
I remember talking about life in general with my son when he was five. I told him that he would probably go away for college and then move away from home and have his own family some day. The thought of leaving home disturbed him greatly. His sense of security comes from knowing that his family will always be there for him. As a parent, I desperately want to hold on to these days when our children still need us and adore us. I know only too well that the inevitable teenage years will be here before we know it. Where parents suddenly don't know anything, don't understand them, and are totally not cool to hang around with.
I finally had the conversation with my son about not being able to marry his sister when he was seven. I took the scientific tack of the maintaining genetic variation as he tends to be very factual. Being a total boy, he was fascinated with the types of birth defects that could occur. After steering the conversation back to not marrying his sister, he took it in stride and said, "That's OK, I have lots of other girlfriends." As he has no secrets from his sister, he broke the news to her that if they got married and had babies, the babies would have no arms, or eyeballs, or anything else that would get a laugh out of her.
But now that he someday has to search for love outside of our family, what will I tell him about relationships and marriage? At this point, the best thing I can do is to show him what a good marriage is. That a good marriage is built on not just love, but honesty, trust and respect. We always remind our kids that even though we sometimes get mad at them, we always love them. The same goes for our marriage. Just because we sometimes argue, we still love each other.
Our now five-year-old daughter is completely caught up in the Disney princess cult and is always staging weddings for herself as well as her dolls and stuffed animals. This is OK to a point, but Ladyblog explores when the princess fantasy goes too far. It will be much harder to bring her down to the reality of relationships after this foray into princess fantasy land. The Disney movies have gotten better at portraying strong women, but they always end with the happily ever after wedding. She'll have to learn that the wedding is only the beginning of the journey.
Most importantly, we hope that providing the safety and sanctuary of family love will give them a strong foundation for future relationships. Sure, our family isn't perfect, but neither is any relationship. Hopefully, they will learn that relationships, like families, are all different but can be full of love, fulfillment, laughter and fun.