This has been bothering me for several months, so I figured I’d just get it out: I don’t like the father figure in many fairy tales. Too often they’re just wimps and losers. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Prince Charmings in the stories, but sometimes I wonder if Prince Charming is charming simply because Good Ol’ Daddy is so not.
Consider these famous stories and the loser fathers these girls experience – and look at the common thread between them.
- Snow White – Father and mother have a baby; mother dies and father remarries a hot girl who happens to also be so wrapped up in herself she’s willing to kill her husband’s daughter to feel prettier than the next hot girl;
- Cinderella – Father and mother have a baby; mother dies and father remarries a lady with girls of her own; “wicked stepmother” treats Daddy’s precious little girl as a servant girl/slave and her own daughters as princesses;
- Rapunzel – this one surprised me, but in the version of the story I read recently to Chloe mother and father live next to an enchantress who has a beautiful garden. Mother looks across the wall, covets the vegetables from the garden, and sends good-ole-hubby over to steal some so she can enjoy eating them. When hubby gets caught he sells his first-born child to the enchantress in exchange for the veggies. Years later when wifey has the baby the wicked enchantress shows up, demands the payment, and daddy and mommy willingly hand over their precious child as payment for all those years of mommy indulging on lettuce that didn’t belong to her in the first place.
Do you see the pattern? In each of these stories the father is weak. I mean, really, what kind of man willingly steals veggies from another person’s garden so his wife can fill her craving and then sells his unborn child to save his own head when he’s caught!?!?!? Or what about Cinderella’s dad – where is he when the stepmother abuses his little girl and treats her as trash? Or Snow White – good-ole-pop is so concerned with finding himself another women to marry that he seems to overlook that she’s a conceited ego-maniac who will stop at nothing (including murder) to be the “fairest of them all”. No wonder Prince Charming can swoop in and steal the young ladies’ hearts: Daddy, the one who was entrusted to protect, teach, and raise the girls, is a loser! Anyone would look good compared to him..
Today in church we sang the old gospel song, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. I remember this song from when I was a kid. I was young when my parents became Christians and there aren’t many specific memories of that time – just more impressions and vague recollections of what life was like BC for us (Before Christ). But I do remember the change that happened once they became saved – while I don’t remember everything, I remember enough to know it was dramatic. And I remember singing this song with my dad in the car, or in the yard, or on vacation. And I knew it was because of Jesus that our life was now better. I also remember marching around the front yard singing the song at the top of my lungs making up motions to match the verses – I remember that day because it was a happy day, a day I could rest and rejoice (even as a young child) because I knew life was better (ie, life was good) now that Jesus had changed Dad and Mom from the inside: something even as a young child I could see.
And that’s the power and influence a father has over his children. I’m not going to be one of those “It’s all about the man” people, and I’m certainly not trying to diminish the influence and impact mothers have on children. What I am trying to do is remind everyone (myself included) of the power and influence fathers have – and it can be used for good or evil. Somehow the girls in these ridiculous fairy tales turned out all right after they met their PCs (Prince Charmings – not personal computers!), but how much anguish and sorrow could have been avoided if Daddy had just stepped up and said, “No!” when he should have:
- Snow White’s Dad: “No, I will not sacrifice my daughter’s life so that I can avoid this sense of loneliness by marrying a self-centered ego-maniac. I choose to love and invest in my daughter instead of fulfilling my desires for the hot chick.”;
- Cinderella’s Dad: “No, you can not treat my child that way! Yes I will ask you questions before we marry and I will study you to make sure you are fit to be the mother of my child as well as my partner in life – because being my partner in life includes being a mother to my child.”
- Rapunzel’s Dad: “No, sweetie, I am not going to go and steal lettuce for you from that lady over there. No, enchantress, I will not sell my future child to you in exchange for this lettuce. No, I will not surrender this baby to you when you show up at my door – you can take her over my dead body!”
Those are just some of the things those fathers should have said but didn’t.
Before I get beat up by my literary friends, I understand these are just stories and that without the drama created from these indiscretions the story may not have been as good. But I ask you this: what are we (or am I) teaching our young daughters about the role of the father by sharing with them these stories? My daughters still focus on the Prince – but even at four Chloe is making connections between all the characters. While she has never said anything or talked about the fathers in a negative light I hope and pray she realizes the difference between her Daddy and these losers.
Now there are all sorts of places I could go with this in terms of the curse and the fall and the attacks by the enemy on the family – all of which I believe hold a level of truth in them. But I want to end this post by just challenging everyone (including myself) to teach our children stories that show valor and honor as characteristics of fathers instead of just characteristics of PCs. One of the biggest problems I see with today’s youth is that girls look for security, protection, acceptance, and love from every place out there except from their fathers – because too many of their fathers are absent, weak, shameless losers. I think of the honorable dads I know through work and church, and the sad fact is that while there are a lot (because I’m blessed to know a lot of great Christian men), there are still far fewer good ones than there are bad ones. That needs to change. One way we can do that is pointing out good fathers to our daughters as well as highlighting the bad when we see it (particularly in stories and movies where we’re not talking about real people). The other way this happens is by being good fathers to our daughters ourselves – which includes being good husbands to our wives. Men, we need to step up to the plate, because if we don’t do it someone else will – and the alternatives in real life rarely have a fairy tale ending.