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Love through rose-colored glasses

How to make your kids understand that love isn’t a fairy tale

Belle of Beauty and the Beast is a good example of a level-headed heroine;

Belle of Beauty and the Beast is a good example of a level-headed heroine;

One of my favorite romantic movies is Moulin Rouge. Satine, a beautiful Parisian geisha of the underworld (played wonderfully by Nicole Kidman) is the object of desire of many Machiavellian club patrons. Christian (Ewan McGregor), a penniless writer, falls heavily for the notorious star. She will do anything to be a “real” actress. He will do anything to mount a show, Spectacular! Spectaclar!, about “truth, beauty, freedom, and love.” They get embroiled in the complexities of fantasy, reality, doubt, secrets, sacrifice, duplicity, forgiveness, and, ultimately, love.

As young girls, we were introduced to the notion of true love via fairy tales starring cartoon princesses conveniently served by Disney. Eyes wide and with bated breath, we watched Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. So that’s how a girl meets a prince! One must be a damsel in distress and with 100 percent certainty she will be rescued by a dashing royal! Choose your poison. Die and miraculously be saved by a passing prince’s kiss. Leave a glass slipper behind and make sure you are the only girl in the entire kingdom that can fit in it. Risk a 100-year slumber in the hopes of being rescued, yet again, by true love’s kiss. The problem with this is that the lead character lives happily ever after with a stranger… or does she? Well no one dares spoil a happy Disney ending.

My daughter meets Princess Anna, who is an exemplary model for sibling love but has much to learn about romance

My daughter meets Princess Anna, who is an exemplary model for sibling love but has much to learn about romance

The mold has changed a bit in recent years. Hans Christian Andersen’s scaled heroine was forever immortalized as Ariel. Defiance and curiosity led her to sell her voice in exchange for legs to the scheming sea witch Ursula. The bargain? Mute girl-fish must make Prince Eric fall in love with her in three days or else lose her melodic voice forever. The Little Mermaid’s efforts did pay off when she eventually got her voice back, married the prince, and kept her legs. But should a girl, in this case a non-human at that, really go through such lengths just because of a handsome face?

Personally, I think the non-princesses/commoners, save for Princess Merida of Brave and Pocahontas, had a better grip of the notion of love. They make good models, too, for our young daughters. Culled from the Brothers Grimm Beauty and the Beast, Belle is a small town girl with big ideas. “A beauty but a funny girl that Belle!” goes the song. She is considered strange and peculiar for having her nose always stuck in a book. Local hunk Gaston assumes she would marry him even without asking. Belle shows independence, bravery, selflessness, and great judgment, having been able to go beyond the beast and see the prince (for who can ever love a beast?). Finally, here’s a girl who actually develops a relationship with the protagonist-turned-love interest. Even then she shows that familial love is stronger than her budding romance. Mulan is also a Disney heroine who exhibited similar traits, prompting the Emperor of China to tell General Shang: “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most beautiful of all. You don’t meet a girl like that every dynasty.”

My daughter and

My daughter and

“I can’t wait to fall in love!” I was shocked to hear my four-year-old daughter R say this after watching Snow White, The Musical last year. I felt guilty for letting her fall prey to the spell of the Disney princesses. There are, after all, many other love stories that could leave a better impression on her. Over the course of time, I have told her about the bible story of Naomi and Ruth, let her watch Meet the Robinsons, and allowed a daily serving of Sofia the First.

Love comes in many facets and forms. My love for my daughter prompts me to equip her for the many challenges and realities of this world. A level-headed girl always trumps an over-idealistic one. As parents, we should not underestimate the capacity of children to understand but it is a must to provide filters. Let’s show them that queens know more about love than any princess can teach. I look forward to the day when I can share oneSunday evening in the future with my very grown-up daughter as we watch Moulin Rouge. For now, it’s enough that I shower her with hugs and kisses for no one can ever love her the way mommy does.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

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