Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Learning from The Princess Bride

The other day I folded clothes in my laundry room and reminisced about The Princess Bride.  It's a ridiculous and charming movie rolled into one, an iconic product of the 1980's.  I must have watched it over a dozen times growing up, creating a vast repertoire of quotes to draw upon in the off-chance that I ever go head-to-head in a battle of wits against a Sicilian when death is on the line.  I occasionally condense a long-winded story with the wise, "Let me explain.  No, there is no time.  Let me sum up," and I can't help but to think, "I do not think it means what you think it means," each time I hear the word inconceivable.

Did I mention that I loved this movie as a kid?  That I went to the library to check out the novel it was based upon after my first viewing?  That I spent hours learning how to hunt and peck out the melody of its theme song ("Storybook Love") on my Casio keyboard? 

Yes, really.

And this past week I found myself whipping out another quote from the movie, one that I've never used before.  There is a scene where the man in black scales the Cliffs of Insanity and, upon reaching the top, begins to dual with the master fencer Inigo Montoya.  Partially through the dual, a clearly-impressed Inigo questions the man in black, "Who are you? ... I must know."

The man in black's response is a simple one: "Get used to disappointment."

I love that line.  And it is exactly what I told Reese while I was folding laundry. 

She had been pleading for something -- I can't recall what -- that was impossible.  Or inconvenient.  Probably both, when I think of it.

By nature, children are bottomless wells of needs and wants.  As any parent knows, there are times when you cannot -- or simply don't want to -- suspend everything that you're doing in order to fulfill those needs and wants immediately.  In an effort to ensure that our children feel loved and special (which is important), our culture dips its toes and wades into the philosophy of child-centeredness.  The result?  It's easy to forget that saying no to your child not only is okay at points, but that it's necessary.  That it's good.

If children grow up under the loose authority of adults who capitulate to their every request, they'll grow into adults who aren't prepared to cope with legitimate setbacks, adults who feel entitled to have things their way regardless of the cost to others.

I don't want this for my girls. 

I want to teach them how to handle disappointment when they're young.  I want them to understand that the world doesn't revolve around them.  At their ages, this starts with simple and firm no's that are spoken in laundry rooms, at bedtimes, at the kitchen table, and in the remarkably tantalizing candy section at the grocery store's check out.

I suspect that this will be an ugly and lengthy process, one involving ample frustration, rolled eyes, wailing, and gnashing of teeth -- and that's just on my part.  My kids probably won't like it either.  But we're all going to get used to disappointment.

(Image compliments of Rick, Flickr.com.)

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