By Courtney Hall
If there is one thing certain about military life, it’s that at some point you’ll get to experience the challenges of solo-parenting. It’s scary, frustrating, demanding, exhausting, lonely — but it can also be manageable.
But don’t worry. The creative minds at Disney have already created the best primer for solo parenting:
When I was little, I thought Goofy was well. . . goofy. But having watched and rewatched the Goofy Movie with my son during our last deployment, I have a new and profound respect for Goofy. Everything goes wrong for him. But that man (or dog or whatever he is) never gets down. Goofy stays upbeat; he finds the silver lining in all the situations he and Max get into.
I have a hard time not getting down, not focusing on how much easier this trip to the grocery store would be if my husband was just here, but Goofy is right. Days are easier if you can just keep focusing on those silver linings.
2. Widow Tweed
Better known as the little old lady who takes in Todd (the Fox) from The Fox and the Hound. Widow Tweed is minding her own business when an owl and two crazy birds drop a baby fox off at her door. Does this lady miss a beat? No. She just takes this unexpected, messy critter into her home and she loves him unconditionally.
It never fails: My well-behaved, kind child turns crazy when my husband leaves. While I know that this is his way of dealing with Daddy being gone, it’s also not fun to live with him. Do I love my son unconditionally? Of course. That doesn’t mean that I show it when I’m stressed and he’s attempting to destroy my home and sassing me and dragging his feet over everything I ask of him. If I can take a breath and just show him love, I can watch him slowly start turning back into the little boy he is when Daddy’s home. Don’t forget to show love.
3. King Triton
I have a bad habit of wanting to keep my kids close, especially when my husband is gone. One of my worst fears is having to call my husband and tell him something happened to one of us. I worry that I’m already tired and stressed and that if I don’t keep them close, I’ll miss something and something bad will happen.
However, like Ariel, my children want to be “Up where they walk/ Up where they run/ Up where they stay all day in the sun.” The point is, my kids need a break. I’m not the only one who needs time alone when Daddy is gone. Crazy as it may seem, our kids get tired and annoyed with us too. They need to take a beat sometimes and go play with kids their age away. Like King Triton, sometimes we just need to let them go.
Beauty and the Beast is still one of my favorite movies. As I’ve gotten older, my reasons for liking it have changed. One of the things I love most about the movie is that Belle doesn’t fit into her town and her dad embraces it. He doesn’t try to change her or discourage her. He embraces who she is and accepts her likes, dreams, and ideals.
When my husband leaves, my son loses one of his biggest supporters. My son does things differently from how I would do them; he thinks differently than I do. He needs to know that’s okay and that I encourage him to think differently. It’s important to remember the goal is to thrive, not just survive. For our children that means encouragement, acceptance, and embracing who they are and who they’re becoming. Be like Maurice and embrace.
(Before I mention my last point, I’d like to say that I know this is a lot. I have been in those dark moments and I have been in those stressed-out moments. You will fail at times. As parents we fail. As solo-parents we will fail and we will judge ourselves all the harder for it. But as long we’re trying, that’s what matters. That’s what matters to our children, to our spouses, and that’s what should matter to us. And that brings me to my last Disney character. . .)
You might know her better as the evil woman who kidnaps Rapunzel in Tangled. I don’t condone kidnapping, but we can learn a valuable lesson from Gothel. Frankly, I don’t know what I’m doing half the time as a parent and I prepared for this role, studied up before and after the baby arrived, and I wanted a baby. . . and not just because they come with magic glowing, healing hair. Yet I still find myself having no idea what I’m doing sometimes.
I take a page from Gothel’s fairytale book and fake it ’til I make it. Sometimes I don’t want to just sit and hold my son; sometimes I want my body and time to myself. Sometimes I want my son to be practically healing me so I know he’s safe. Sometimes I don’t want him to pick up his toys his way (which takes an hour); I want him to pick up my way. . . now! In those moments all I can do is try to remind myself what my Disney teachers do and . . . fake it ’til I make it. It’s all we can do . . . we’re parents.