For Halloween my two oldest children wanted to have Sleeping Beauty-themed costumes. I tried resisting, knowing I’d have to spend my free time sitting at a sewing machine, but they persisted. So we all went in homemade costumes as characters from the movie: My two year old was Aurora, my four year old was Prince Phillip, the baby was a fairy. My husband and I were the “bad guys,” I was Maleficent and Adam was the dragon.
As I finished each part of their costumes it was fun to watch them get into character. Gabriel and Cecilia would take each other by the hand and dance in the living room to the movie’s love song “Once Upon a Dream.” Then Cecilia would climb up the ladder to her brother’s bed and lie there with her eyes closed while Gabriel traveled through the house pretending to search for her so that he may give her “true love’s kiss.”
All of their talk and play about “true love’s kiss” got me thinking: What do I want my children to know about love? What does it mean to find your “true love”? Do I want them to think it’s a fairy tale? Do I want them to think true romance doesn’t exist? Or do I want them to think something else?
While not all aspects of fairy tales apply to modern life, heroism, sacrifice and romance are all qualities of love I hope my children find one day. I want them to know that love is a choice and not a feeling. But once they find the one they want to spend the rest of their lives with, it won’t always be happily ever after. There will be bumps and bruises and trials and struggles. But I also want them to know that even when frustrations and hurt arise, love is worth it. I want them to know that being so vulnerable and intimate with another human being is freeing and healing. There’s nothing else on Earth like it.
Then it hit me. It’s up to my husband and I to show this love to our children because they’re watching. They’re always watching. They see the good and the bad, and even with the bad we must convey that love still remains. Our love must wash over all the flaws they see in us.
It’s precisely because love conquers all that they must also see some of our ugly moments like when we disagree, cry or miscommunicate. During our premarital counseling the pastor told us a story of another bride whose parents only ever fought behind closed doors because they didn’t want their children to see those parts of their relationship. While they thought they were helping their children, in truth they portrayed a false reality of what it meant to be married and their daughter struggled with this as a newlywed when inevitable disagreements arose in her marriage. While not all arguments should take place in front of children, the priest cautioned us to allow our children to witness some of our everyday squabbles so that they realize discord happens. However, it was even more important for them to see how we resolved those problems and made up. It would be a great gift to our children, he said.
Six years into our marriage, we have taken those words to heart by allowing our kids to witness our disagreements about work commitments, chore responsibilities and general day-to-day miscommunications. Some arguments we do save for later, such as those about parenting choices and issues with extended family. But our kids see how we talk through these problems, respectfully allowing each other to speak and be heard. They hear us apologize and ask for forgiveness, and they take comfort when they see us kiss, hug and share playful laughter when resolution comes.
As for right now, I’m content with my children playing princesses and knights and dreaming of “true love’s kiss.” They know that love is something noble and true and worthy to be desired. I only hope that someday they’re as lucky as I was to find true love in all its messy and beautiful goodness.
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