Emily Jade loves Disney movies, but as a mother, she’s got one little problem with them.
It’s Friday night. For the first time in forever, Gerard and I are home having a quiet dinner together. Millie is with us, but we have popped her in the lounge with the babysitter — the TV.
I’d fed her an early tea in the hope we could have just one fuss-free adult meal for the week. She was content watching the new Cinderella. I’d just purchased it, mainly for her, but a teeny tiny bit (read: whole lot) for me.
I wanted her to fall in love with this new movie, a movie with actual real life humans acting in it and not cartoons. My daughter tends to watch the same movie 49,000 times and insist I sit with her for company, so I was desperate. However, in my quest to find something we could both love, I didn’t think it through — seeing real people, and not cartoons, in a movie makes ideas seem more real in a little person’s mind.
Halfway through our peaceful meal, a little voice yelled from the TV room.
“Mama, when you die, do I get a stepmother like Cinderella?”
Wait, what?! Oh that’s right, this movie is about death before it’s about love. #parentfail. Wanting to put the horrible thought of a motherless life right out of her little head, I answered.
“Mummy’s not going to die, honey, so don’t even worry about it! Cinderella is just a movie, it’s not real!”
Not good enough. She wasn’t falling for my bubble gum answer. She wanted TRUTH, so she pressed on, barely looking away from Cate Blanchett on the TV. “But if you DID, would Daddy marry a stepmother?
This time I looked to her father to answer. After all, if I did die as she hypothesised, a possible stepmother wouldn’t be my choice, because I’d be dead.
What would he do?
He put down his knife and fork, looked at me, then looked back at her.
“No, Millie, I wouldn’t re-marry. It will just be you and me together forever, kiddo, ok?”
In one swift sentence he made the two women in his life happy. Her, because she wouldn’t have to deal with an evil fairytale-like stepmother, and me because it was a Friday night. He is a clever man, taking a chance at a romantic notion on a night when I don’t have to get up at 4am in the morning. Thinking about him pining for me forever, not ever getting over me after my death — how could I not give him an extra special goodnight kiss later on when the kid was asleep?
Later, as I searched for something less confronting for her to watch, I couldn’t find many options. What is it with most kids movies having a death in the first few scenes? And why is it always the good, kind, much loved and adored mother — especially in Disney movies?
“One reason is because Disney films are about growing up,” Don Hahn, executive producer of Maleficent, recently told Glamour.
“They’re about that day in your life when you have to accept responsibility. In shorthand, it’s much quicker to have characters grow up when you bump off their parents.”
While it’s noble to help children learn to grow up, what about us parents? All it has taught me is that the good mums die young, while the bad ones live on. So I might as well aim low as a mother and live a long life.
Lollies for dinner, Millie?