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What Disney’s ‘Brave’ Taught Me About My Pride

At 36 weeks pregnant, I’ve been thinking about everything. And nothing. All at the same time. What will this little girl look like? Will she get her father’s brains and thirst for truth? Her mother’s hyper-organizational skills (Lord help us) and love for rainy days? Will she fake-break her leg during gym class so she doesn’t have to play the parachute game yet again?

So in an effort to distract myself from the endless daydreaming and mindless thought-wandering, I headed to the movies yesterday afternoon with a girlfriend and her six-year-old daughter, who chose Brave as the flick of choice. To be honest, I live in a hole in terms of pop culture and relevant society news, so I hadn’t even heard of it, nor did I have any expectations of any sort. (Secretly I was just there for the popcorn.) Yet with the swirling emotions of pregnancy and the very near arrival of a budding mother/daughter relationship of my own, I found myself in tears throughout the course of the film. For a few reasons, actually…

First things first. I am a big proponent of taking responsibility for your actions and a firm believer that a heartfelt apology goes a long way. But what goes further? Obedience, thoughtfulness and a genuine care and concern for the people around you. I saw none of these characteristics in Merida, the precocious, stubborn “heroine” in Brave.

I took issue with this. At first.

In fact, through a series of unfortunate, childish decisions Merida made, she repeatedly harmed herself, her family and her country (because like every movie, what good is one poor choice if the entire country doesn’t suffer the rippling effects?). And rather than being scolded for, or even cognizant of, her actions, she flitted about attempting to “fix” her problems by blaming others and creating even more conflict.

I was appalled. At first.

And when Merida’s mother and father danced around in various ways to right their daughter’s wrongs, I rolled my eyes, praying I would never be that parent who, rather than teaching their children the consequences of their actions, simply swept the issues under their clean “Welcome” doormat of suburban family pride.

At first.

And then I realized that love makes us do strange things, and that we’re all sort of trying to do the best we can. Merida was stubborn, but her mother loved her despite her strong-willed ways. Because of her strong-willed ways. And I saw hope.

I saw a mother that loved her daughter despite the absolute hell Merida put her through. I saw a mother that was willing to look past her own social graces, status and tradition to accept that her daughter was nothing like her. I saw a mother that was a much better mother than I can ever hope to be.

And only then did I see the change in Merida. A small change, yes, but a change nonetheless. Remorse for her poor decisions. An apology for her actions. A renewed sense of love and respect for her parents.

And I realized that obedience and compliance go a long way, but perhaps bigger mountains can be moved when a mother shifts ever so slightly. When a mother gives, flexes and listens. When a mother shows her daughter what love means through her own sacrifice.

And although I believe there’s a happy medium somewhere (I’ve never loved the idea of becoming a Mommy Martyr), I learned a lot from Brave. I still hope to teach my daughter to be obedient, but I hope she’s also comfortable enough to spread her own wings and, inevitably, make a few poor decisions of her own. And when she does, I hope I can be there to practice flexibility, love and grace – my own pride aside.

Because isn’t that what courage is about? Forgoing pride, structure and expectations to embrace unchartered territory? Loving someone else more than yourself? Attempting to teach our children life’s lessons – all while learning them ourselves?

I can only hope to be so brave.

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