On a recent snow day my girls and I had settled in to watch Yours, Mine and Ours–a favorite movie from a few years back. The storyline gets laid out pretty quickly: Widow meets widower, they fall in love, get married, and proceed to merge 18 kids into one very messy blended family. And as the new family bickered and snickered and generally acted ugly toward each other, Emery (age 11), looked at me with mock horror. “Don’t ever do that to us! I don’t want to share a room and do all that!” She was kidding, but not really. And so I laughed and reassured her. “Don’t worry Em. I won’t.” And then, before I could back the truck up, this is what flew out of my mouth:
“I don’t think I ever want to get married again, anyway.” And in witty Emery fashion, she gave me a knowing look and asked, “Too much disappointment?”
I nearly spit out my drink. She knew she was being snarky with her little assessment of my unfortunate marital history (widowed and divorced)– and so I laughed and smiled back.
“Yes. Yes that’s exactly it.”
And that was that. We ate our popcorn and scoffed and marveled at the comical antics of this crazy blended family. (IF ONLY, people! If ONLY blended families were THAT much FUN.)
But that little dialogue stuck with me. Partly because of Emery’s very insightful question that seemed well above her age and maturity level. But MAINLY because of my quick answer and the very clear message I was sending my daughters in that moment:I don’t believe in lasting love. I don’t believe in marriage. I don’t believe in happily ever after. And I certainly don’t want to take THAT risk again. Big. Heavy. Sigh. Oops. (But let’s be honest- married 3 times?? No offense…but no thanks. And I’m not quite sure my mother could survive another marriage with me anyhow. Thanks, Mom. I owe you. Like, in such a big, big way.)
And yet here’s the tricky part. I do believe in those things. Well…I sort of do. Well, I sort of do for other people but just not for me. (Clearly, I’m still working this out) In just about every other area of my life, I am the eternal optimist. I am a glass half-full kinda girl. I believe in silver linings. I look for the bright side. I believe in the sweetness of life and that it somehow eases the bitter. When life throws me a plot twist I’m usually pretty quick to find the positive. I believe that things have a way of working out. Blah, blah, blah. But love…ughhh. Love is a whole different beast. Love has been…hard.
So. I need to do better.
Because it’s not okay with me if my girls think this way.
It’s not okay if I’ve somehow made them afraid of love or relationships or marriage.
It’s not okay if I’ve unintentionally sent the message that love will disappoint you. It will not win. It will not work out. It’s not okay to steal their girlhood dreams of Happily Ever After and Prince Charming and the Knight on the White Horse. I don’t want to tell them to be realistic. I don’t want to tell them there’s no such thing as true and lasting love. And I don’t want them believing it’s not possible for them. And in my heart of hearts, I don’t want to believe it’s not possible for me, either. So. Yeah. There’s that.
‘I asked her if she believed in love, and she smiled and said it was her most elaborate form of self-harm.’ ~Benedict Smith