Jun 06

Mother Gothel

The other day, Naomi, who is 7, and I were discussing “Tangled.” We were discussing the character of Mother Gothel and why she never let Rapunzel leave her tower. I think that Mother Gothel is a very complex character. She is sometimes kind to Rapunzel, and sometimes not. Rapunzel, likewise, has complicated feelings toward Mother Gothel.  Adults can easily see how Mother Gothel is only kind to Rapunzel because Rapunzel gives her what she wants–eternal youth. But to children, Mother Gothel is not the usual Disney villain that you can pick out at a distance.

I told  Naomi that Mother Gothel never let Rapunzel leave the tower because if anyone saw her, they would bring her back to the castle where she belongs. I said that Mother Gothel only wanted Rapunzel because her magic hair made her young, and that Mother Gothel had kidnapped Rapunzel from her real parents.

Naomi then said, “That doesn’t happen in real life, though.”

How I wished that I could tell her that no, of course kidnapping doesn’t happen in real life. I have always struggled with how much I should tell my children about the dangers of our world. I would love for them to live in a world where no one is hurt or hungry or sick, and since that is not the case, I would prefer to protect them by not letting them even be aware that these bad things do happen. I wish that the worst thing that they could even conceive of would be not getting to the go to playground because the baby is sick, for example.

We sponsor a few children through World Vision and Compassion International, and a couple of years ago I began to get Naomi involved in the letter-writing process. I had her draw a picture to send to one girl we sponsor who is Naomi’s age, and whenever we get letters from this precious girl, I show them to Naomi. I explained to her at the time that this little girl and her family don’t have all the things we have–like food–and so we help them so they will have what they need. That is very true, but I didn’t also add that there are many, many kids who aren’t so fortunate to have sponsors or other help, and who really do not have enough.

When Naomi asked about kidnapping, I decided that I couldn’t lie to her even though my mother’s heart was screaming at me to do so. So I told her, “Well, it doesn’t happen very much, but there are some very bad people out there. That’s why it’s important that you follow our rules, and when you play outside, you stay in the areas we told you were OK. That way you will be safe.” I don’t know if that was too much information, or not enough, but she seemed OK with that, and she didn’t ask any more questions. Ever since then, though, the conversation has been on my mind.

These are the kind of things no one teaches you in childbirth prep classes!

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