Three lessons from “Cinderella”

This week has been spring break for my preschooler.  And though she only goes to school for three hours in the afternoon, four days a week, it actually has given us some time to do some extra things with her.  Earlier this week, the kiddo, my mom and I hit up an afternoon matinee of the new “Cinderella” movie.  We dressed in some sparkle, munched some popcorn and had a grand time.  I am not sure which of us enjoyed the movie most.  All three of us were dazzled.  While I can’t speak for my mother or even my daughter, I can tell you why I was dazzled.  (And I must confess that Belle is my Disney princess of choice to whom I have most been loyal.  Cinderella quite unexpectedly swept me off my feet!)

1. We all need Cinderella moments. Whether sparkle, ball gowns and fancy shoes are your thing or not (the girly girl in me loves such things!), I think we each have an innate desire to feel beautiful (at least sometimes) and have shining moments.  We may not seek or desire the limelight.  We may not want a whole ballroom of folks looking at us or need pomp and circumstance, but we each need to feel validated.  We each need to feel seen by someone.  We each need to feel cared about.  Perhaps more than anything, we each need an occasional break from the mundane tasks of daily life. We all need a bit of fantasy sometimes and a bit of a break from reality. We need something to look forward to, to hope for and to fondly remember later on.

I think back into my own life and the times I’ve had these moments.  Some of them have been big events, like when I dressed in a big white dress and married my beloved high school sweetheart just over 15 years ago.  And some of them have been smaller events, like when my husband and I returned to our high school years later on a scavenger hunt and stood in the parking lot, dancing to our song next to my car.  I was wearing jeans and a hoodie yet felt as beautiful as I did on my wedding day.  For those couple of minutes, I was totally his world and he was totally mine.

My mom and daughter waiting for the movie to start.

And I think of my daughter. I think of the kind of magical moments I want for her. She’s had a few already in her five years of life, but I know there are so many more to come. There will be proms and maybe a wedding. She will grow in grace and beauty even more and I hope and pray that she will have Cinderella moments.

2. We all need love. The last few Disney movies I’ve seen have focused less on romantic love and more on other types of love like between siblings (“Frozen”) or between caregiver and child (“Malificent”). I get that.  I appreciate that. I don’t want to teach my daughter that her validity comes only through the love of a man, but at the same time I also want to teach her that true love does exist and she deserves it. Will she learn this solely from Disney movies? Heck, no. She’ll learn it more from watching her dad and me and her grandparents. She’ll learn it from lessons at church. But is it so bad to dream of finding true love? Not one bit. There is something magical and special about finding it. There is something magical and special about marriage.

Please don’t mistake my romantic musings for ignorance. Romance isn’t necessarily being swept off your feet by Prince Charming and whisked to the ball in glass slippers. It isn’t necessarily having a man come striding in to save you from your rough life. It is finding a man who cherishes you, who loves you, who cares for you, who is kind to you and who makes you better just for knowing him. While all of these things aren’t conveyed in a Disney movie (because there’s only so much that can go into a two-hour movie, anyway!), they are important tenants of life. It’s important to dream. It’s important to love. It’s important to hope.

So many times marriage advice tends to focus on how your spouse may drive you crazy and you live with it. Or churches may even dole out advice to avoid adultery and other pitfalls that can destroy families. All of these things are important and vital, but it’s also important and vital to remember the good things about marriage. My life is better because my husband is in it. He doesn’t bring me flowers all the time. He doesn’t write me love letters daily. He shows me love in working for our family. He shows me love in supporting me. He shows me love in the responsibility he feels and takes seriously to help me navigate and enjoy life. I have seen his romance in sitting by my bedside after surgery wearing a T-shirt proclaiming “My Wife Rock” or advocating for me to try a new treatment that might help my bladder. I have seen his love when he notices that I am worn out and frayed around the edges and sends me off to nap in our bedroom for an hour while he takes charge of the kids.

It’s OK to want romantic love. It’s OK to admit that you are better for it. Yes, these things can be misconstrued and we will certainly teach that to our children. We will work to instill in them a love for God, their family and themselves, but I do dream and pray that my children both find true love one day and have wonderful spouses who help make their journey easier and better.

3. We all need courage, kindness and forgiveness. Perhaps more than any other message, this latest version of the Cinderella story focused on these attributes. These are things I find mostly through my faith in God and that is what I am sharing with my children as they grow. Cinderella isn’t a religious movie or story by any means, but these attributes are all things that would make the world a better place if everyone adhered to them.  It takes courage to be brave and face new and challenging situations. There are times in life when it takes courage to even get out of bed and face the day. Other times courage is much bolder in taking big leaps of faith. We may be scared, but we more forward with courage.

And let us not forget kindness. Can you imagine if everyone you ever met in the world was genuinely kind? It would solve so many problems. At its root, kindness is thinking more of others than yourself, which is exactly what Jesus taught. A smile for a hurting person, a sandwich for a hungry man, a cup of cold water given on a hot day — kindness comes in many forms and makes a profound impact.

Finally, forgiveness.  In the end, Cinderella forgave her stepmother before she moved on with her new life.  (I’d say spoiler alert, but it’s pretty much the story of Cinderella that’s been around for ages.) You cannot move forward when you’re clinging to the hurts of the past. It’s not possible. Forgive. Move forward. Simple and yet profound.

And this is why I was surprisingly dazzled this week when we went to “Cinderella.”  I’m not sure she’ll take over as my favorite Disney princess.  I can’t help but love bookworm Belle, and I have an attachment to her after spending a summer in marching band performing a “Beauty and the Beast” show.  But I really enjoyed Cinderella more than any other recent Disney movie. (Sorry, “Frozen.”) It spoke to the romantic girly girl in me and it spoke a bit to the mother in me. Who knew that a Disney movie would make me wax philosophical and sentimental?!

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