Frozen “out”?

Cast of Frozen

Cast of Frozen

I’m not sure where to begin. Last November, Disney unleashed their latest blockbuster film Frozen. Since that premiere kids and adults everywhere have been captivated by both the fantastic music and  positive message of the movie. My family was no exception. I took two of my kids to the midnight premiere. My mom took four of them to see it over Christmas break. All of them have seen it and love it. If I accidentally say the words “Let It Go” around my kids (including my 9 year old son) they spontaneously break out into song, belting out the lyrics at the top of their lungs. My kids have talked excitedly about pitching in together to buy the movie once it comes out on iTunes.

So, you can imagine my surprise when, earlier this week, I read a blog that claims Frozen is an attempt by the LGBT community to promote their gay agenda to unsuspecting children and their families by trying to normalize the gay lifestyle. This woman goes on and on for a couple of dozen paragraphs about how practically every part of the movie is not what it seems. What? WHAT? Did we see the same movie? I consider myself a reasonably smart person and didn’t get any of that message. And I even watched it with my kids again last night to see for myself if there was some gay undercurrent to the film. I still didn’t see it. While I will admit that I didn’t research this particular author, I did read some of the comments by her readers. Some agreed with her points while others blasted her. After reading her thoughts a second time I came away thinking that this blogger is delusional and hateful. It seems that she has a personal anti-gay agenda because her own daughter is (allegedly, according to commenters) gay and this was meant to put her down as well. Seems especially sad to me in that context. Besides, if her fear is that children are going to be adversely affected by the message of this movie she is wrong. My friend Aaron at Daddy Files wrote a satirical blog in response and I would encourage you to check it out (after you’re done with my blog). But I don’t want to focus any more on what that negative blogger wrote about the movie and instead consider some of the messages other Disney “princess” movies have promoted over the years and how they compare to Frozen.

As a stay at home dad of six (five girls!) for the last 13+ years I’ve seen and heard pretty much every Disney princess movie. Multiple times. To the point that I could probably recite an alarming amount of the dialog and musical lyrics. I’m not 100% certain, but I don’t believe that my daughters have shaped their lifestyles after any of the females in the movies. While maybe not the intent of the writers, I believe that most of the early Disney princess movies followed a pretty similar formula for the female character. Both Snow White and Cinderella feature a young girl whose father dies so she must live with her wicked step-mother who is abusive. Both depend on the “true love” of a prince to save them. The “true love” that comes from knowing someone for one dance (Cinderella) or a few chance musical interactions (Snow White). Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty is not much better as she falls in love with Prince Phillip after waltzing with him in the forest. And his kiss of “true love” overcomes the curse of Maleficent, much like the prince’s kiss saves Snow White. In each instance, the girl is powerless to save herself and must depend on the “true love” of a man. That’s not really a life message that I want for my girls in 2014. In addition, I’d like to think that my daughters, should they end of getting married, will take more time to really get to know their potential spouse than one dance. Frozen actually supports this message as Anna is chided a few times for getting engaged to someone she just met that day.

The Little Mermaid. Wow. What a complex movie. First you have the disobedient and rebellious main female character who isn’t satisfied with her life “Under the Sea” and wants to live on land despite the fact that she’s a mermaid. She becomes obsessed with Prince Eric, a guy she’s never met and who doesn’t even know she exists. She even has a treasure trove of human trinkets, complete with a statue of him that she sings to. Seriously. If that doesn’t scream STALKER I’m not sure what will. So, I want my daughter to never be content with what is provided for her at home but instead to desire something or someone else that she doesn’t even know? No thanks. Furthermore, Ariel has to literally change her body to “get” the object of her obsession. She has to trade her voice for a pair of human legs. Again, I would like my daughters to be happy and satisfied with who they are and find someone who would love them for who they are without having to change themselves. Frozen seems to tell us that we should remain true to ourselves and not worry so much about what society expects or wants for us. Let It Go!

Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite movies for the message that it sends girls to look beyond the hunky guys like Gaston and deeper into someone’s soul like the Beast. Disney left the old formula and ventured a little bit into the notion that a girl who reads and wants to travel could be attractive for those reasons. Interestingly, though, Belle is still quite physically beautiful and is the object of desire for Gaston. Pocahontas and Mulan both have very positive and strong female lead characters and I like them both a lot for that reason. But, like all the other “princess” movies, there is a romantic love interest that must be woven into the story to really draw us in and appeal to the girls. I do appreciate how both Pocahontas and Mulan are very strong characters who remain true to themselves despite familial and cultural pressures to change. In Frozen, Elsa is much a strong character like those two. But the positive twist is the power of the “true-love” of her sister is what changes/saves her, not a romantic interest.

If it seems like I’ve given this a lot of thought it’s because I have. Before I had an iPod or iPhone, we had a VCR/DVD player installed in our minivan to play movies from a flip-down screen, using the radio to play the sound. Which meant, of course, that I was literally a captive audience to the audio for the movies my kids watched during the long drives to visit family that lived in a different state than us. At least four hours each way. That’s a lot of movies. If it’s not obvious from what I wrote, I really enjoyed Frozen and the message it sends to our children. At any rate, I’d love to get your thoughts about what I’ve written here.

**Note: This was originally posted last week but somehow the link stopped working. Hope you enjoyed it (again).

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Bad Dad: Seeking Forgiveness

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Saturday started out on the right foot. I woke up and went to the YMCA to hit the elliptical machine for a 45 minute workout while my wife fed breakfast to our youngest children. Upon my return home I was back in charge of them so she could shower. Without going into the details, some of my older children got into a conflict while I was “in charge”. In a few moments of poor parenting I made some choices that I wish I could take back. But, since there’s no “EASY” button like in those Staples ads, I had to endure the consequences of my poor parenting choices. The peaceful Saturday morning had been shattered, replaced with a tension and uneasiness because I didn’t handle the conflict between two of my children appropriately. I actually caused it to escalate by my actions. With one of my kids crying in a bedroom and another with me in the kitchen while I fed my baby breakfast I began to realize the depth of my parenting failure that morning.

I started to replay the events in my mind, trying to justify my behavior so that I wouldn’t feel so bad about how I’d (mis)handled the conflict. Before I could get too far into that line of thinking my wife came into the kitchen to let me know that I’d royally screwed up that morning. She didn’t say it exactly that way, but that’s the version I’m sticking with. And I knew she was right. Even in my defensive state of mind I was still able to recognize truth. I knew that I needed to apologize to both of my kids for the way I had acted in response to their conflict. As a parent, I’m usually able to keep my cool and respond appropriately. In this instance, I had failed to do that and had failed them. I knew better. And they deserved better. So, there it was. I owed them each an apology.

The good news is that when I was very young my parents taught me how to apologize and seek forgiveness whenever I wronged someone else. The bad news is that I’ve had way too much practice doing that over the years. In all seriousness, though, I’ve learned that most people will accept an apology if they can see and understand that I’m truly sorry. Many are almost caught off-guard when asked to forgive me. There’s a look that they give me that’s a mix of wonder, shock and gratitude. Unfortunately, as a parent I make mistakes. However, each time that I do I try to use it as an opportunity to grow as a parent and to model for my children how to apologize. This time was no different. I went to each child and explained how I had messed up and how I would handle the conflict in the future if it were to arise. Then I apologized and asked forgiveness. It’s especially hard for me to do that when I can see the hurt that I’ve caused in the eyes of my child. Thankfully, each of them forgave me and we’re moving on from it.

I guess that’s the other part of the “forgiveness” lesson I’ve learned over the years. While seeking forgiveness is important, being willing to grant forgiveness is truly the key. I could go on and on about the importance of forgiveness but I’ll try to leave it with this: Forgiving the mistakes of others is the key to happy and healthy relationships. Life is too precious to live in the land of UN-forgiveness.

PS-That’s supposed to be a “bad” or “scary” face. Don’t laugh. It’s the best I could come up with. It’s not like I was planning on blogging about a parenting fail. 🙂

Quotable Kids #4

This is going to be an ongoing entry of things my kids say that are particularly memorable.
1. M, age 3 1/2, recently watched “The Three Stooges” movie with her brother and asked for it again the next day. “Daddy, may I please watch the ‘Three Students’ again today?”
2. Several years ago, while living in Wisconsin, my wife and I told our kids that the two of us would be taking a trip together to Seattle. My then-4 year old asked, “Who’s Attle?”.

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3. My nine year old son asked, “Dad, instead of buzzing my hair with the clippers I have a better idea. Could I burn it off?”. Might need to have him Google ‘Michael Jackson Pepsi Commercial fire’.
4. My kids love the Disney movie Frozen and sing the songs a lot. I asked my three year old, who has seen it in the theater three times, what she learned from it. Her answer was funny. “I learned not to sing along in the theater.”

I caught my kid…being good!

As a parent, and specifically as the at home parent who is with our children the most during the day, I am constantly trying to get my children to be more helpful, kind and considerate. Often, it can seem like I’m speaking Greek to them because, like most kids, they can fight and with and irritate one another, despite whatever I say or do. And then something happened over the weekend that helped assure me that my words are heard and that my efforts as a parent have not been entirely in vain. I caught my nine year old son being good!

Actually, I didn’t catch him being good. I just heard about it from my friend Austin, who is a pastor at my church. He stopped me in between services on Sunday morning to tell me how much he enjoyed chatting with my son the previous day while I was playing trombone with the worship team during our two hour rehearsal Saturday afternoon. It was news to me that Austin and my son had chatted at all, since my son had planned on reading his new favorite book series (Series of Unfortunate Events). Austin told me that while my son was quietly reading in the mezzanine he (Austin) was in and out of the large room, getting things ready for the 6 pm service, when all of a sudden my son appeared (Austin had been working with his back to my boy) and asked Austin if he needed any help. Even though he didn’t need the help, Austin graciously brought my boy to the kitchen and had him wash some dirty dishes that would be needed later. They talked while washing dishes and doing other tasks once the dishes were done. Austin complimented me on my son’s behavior and willingness to offer his help without being asked or prompted.

I was floored. Sure, there are times that my son willingly does his daily chores and sometimes even offers to do things without being asked. But, for him to do that somewhere other than at home made me think that he’s really beginning to understand; that my parenting is making a positive difference. It was one of those moments that will encourage and inspire me to keep on parenting even when it seems like my kids are not listening to me. After church, I gave my son a big hug and told him how proud I was of what he did the previous day to help out Pastor Austin without being asked. Once we got home, I made a point to tell my wife about his helpfulness in front of him so that he would hear (again!) how pleased I was of him.