I Am Not the Mom I Meant to Be

(alternative title: Disney Pixar’s Brave – review)

I’m a planner.  Maybe I’m a control freak, but for now let’s stick with planner.

I’ve known my entire life that someday I would be a mom, and I knew exactly what kind of mom I would be: laid back, fun, free spirited, whimsical, hysterical.  Yes, I fantasized that I would keep my future children in stitches.  

In reality, I’m a complete nut job of a parent, and I don’t mean that in the delightfully charming way.  I mean that in the I-already-know-my-children-will-need-therapy kind of way.

When the time was finally right to start a family, my husband and I planned the beginning of our journey so well that my due date actually fell during spring break, my maternity leave from teaching taking me exactly to the end of the school year.  I daydreamed about how pleasant it would be to go for walks with my newborn in the perfect April weather and purchased 0 to 3 month clothes for the spring.

Then my daughter decided to commit her first act of defiance by arriving two months early.  In February.

The clothes were wrong, the maternity leave was a nightmare, the production of Guys and Dolls that I was directing was in tech week and suddenly on hold, the plans were out the window. Gone.

And yet I didn’t learn my lesson.  I read dozens of parenting books and drew conclusions about the Very Important Parenting Topics like how long my daughter would drink breast milk, when we would start solid foods, when we would allow her to watch television.  These decisions became carved in stone and even as I drove my daughter to the geneticist and the cardiologist and watched as her little preemie body missed milestone after milestone in my Chart of Things Babies Do Correctly, I continued to try to plan and be a good mom. The right mom.

My daughter is now eight and in many ways my second child is saving us all by turning our world upside down with his energy and impulsivity.  Yet I catch myself constantly trying to parent the way I believe I should, doing what is right and good and planned.

And I realize from time to time, in those moments when I catch a certain look on my daughter’s face or feel a stinging pang in my chest, that I am not the mom I planned to be.  I have put living correctly over enjoying life.

I did not take my family to see a sneak peek of Disney Pixar’s new movie Brave expecting cathartic moments or mother-daughter bonding.  Instead I expected to laugh at animated men in kilts and cheer for a princess whose crazy orange ringlets must be giving the Disney costume designers fits.  And I did those things. I belly-laughed so hard at one point that the young reporter two seats over looked at me and feverishly took notes on his little pad of paper.

But I also caught him watching me as the tears rolled down my cheeks, soaking my chest as they flowed unfettered because my hands were clinging to my children on either side of me.

During one long scene near the end I found myself holding my daughter’s hand, wanting to jerk her out of her seat and away from danger, my chest tight with fear.  I know I should assume that all will turn out fine in the end, but ever since Disney killed Raymond, I’m a bit less trusting.  My daughter leaned over and let me know she was okay.  I held her hand anyway.  For me.

I will not be one of those bloggy spoilers and tell you anything more, but let me just say this.  If you are a mother with a daughter – any age – go.  Just go.  You must see this movie.

And oh by the way, the rest of you should go, too, and here is why:

Humor: While there are moments of cheap slapstick that sent my six year old son into fits of laughter and bawdy humor that played to my 12 year old boy sensibilities, there are also countless I’ve-been-there family situations that kept everyone in my family laughing.

Beauty: I have been to Scotland numerous times, but the next time I go I want Disney to draw it.  There is something absolutely magical about the way they capture the lush, green grass and the mysterious darkness of the forest.  And Merida?  Her hair alone should win the Disney Pixar team a shelf full of awards. Stunning.  Absolutely stunning.

Story-telling: As a former literature major, I’m a sucker for a good story, and Brave does not disappoint.  I thought I knew what the movie was about before heading out to see it with my family, but there was so much more there, all of it woven together beautifully in a way that my children could follow and I could enjoy.

Themes: Without giving too much away let me just say that the universal struggles captured inside the story of Merida’s quest to change her fate will speak to all of us.

Adventure: Battles, magic, archery, racing horses, giant bears, angry Scotsman…enough adventure to get every heart racing.

Learn more about Disney Pixar’s Brave.

Tickets for my family of four were provided. No other compensation was received. All opinions and parental mess-ups are my own.



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  • I have read a few places that it is pretty intensely scary, especially near the end. My four year-old daughter is practically counting down until we can get to the theater, but I am a little nervous after reading what I have read…would you recommend a child that young seeing it? She has seen every other Disney movie on the planet Earth, for what it is worth.

    Great review, by the way, I especially liked what you wrote about motherhood, as it is so true.

    • On the scary scale I would say that it is wolf chase in Beauty and the Beast scary not hellfire and brimstone in The Hunchback of Notre Dame scary.

    • I would agree with Amy. I’ve actually seen it twice and the “Scariness factor” didn’t even register with me the first time. I had to watch it again to see what people were talking about! What I would say is that it’s intense animal chasing and fighting, but not “evil, creepy-feeling” scary. My kids (and I) handle that kind of “scary” action MUCH better.

  • Y’know I couldn’t disagree with you more about taking kids of any age to this movie. I would say to parents of small children, stay away. It’s not worth it. It is scary. My 5-year-old was scared and I can’t in good conscience suggest taking a little kid to see it.

    Older kids will probably be fine. Yes, there are enjoyable moments in this film, but I didn’t feel it built mother-daughter bonding. It seemed totally off-kilter in its tone and message. For anyone interested, in general, in whether a film is appropriate for your kid, definitely check out this site: http://www.kids-in-mind.com/. It lists everything that could potentially be objectionable or scary or concerning in a particular film (in addition to listing each incidence of violence, for Brave, the site also notes that someone’s called a “goggly old hag”; so definitely a great site, so you can take just the facts and determine if that’s the kind of thing that will scare your kid).

    • Hi Rasheeda, thanks for your comment! I edited to remove the spoiler because I didn’t believe it to be a mild spoiler but rather that it gave away the turning point of the plot. I don’t want to ruin that moment for anyone partly because it was one of my favorite moments of the film.

      And I should note that my daughter is 8. Perhaps that is why I experienced those moments so intensely?

      Thanks for sharing your opinion! We’ve all got them 🙂

    • And yes, I’m replying again! 🙂 When I said daughters of any age I meant any age appropriate for a PG movie. Movies receive ratings for a reason, and parents should have some common sense about following the advice of the ratings board. I wasn’t thinking three year olds when I wrote that. I was thinking 16 year olds. And 22 year olds. And 34 year olds who need to give their moms a break for stuff that happened 25 years ago. My any age was appropriate and UP, not down. Sorry about that!

  • Thank you for this post. Too often, like you, I get caught up in doing things the ‘right way'(whatever that is!) That I don’t enjoy my son and being his mommmy. I know that motherhood isn’t all sunshine and lolly pops, but I do think I put undue stress on myself. Thank you for the reminder to let go a little and enjoy life! Brave looks like a wonderful movie. I can’t wait to see it. I choked up a bit just reading your experience with it!

  • Oh, and Amy? One of the best reviews I’ve read on the movie. Bravo!

  • Lolli sent me over here and I’m glad she did! Great review! Funny, I still can’t stop talking about her hair either! It’s mesmerizing! 🙂

  • What a fabulous review of the movie! I don’t have a daughter but I want to see the movie even more now.
    I absolutely love that quote. I’m not the mother I meant to be either Amy. Motherhood is different and so much more than I imagined. Something you just cant plan for. The control freak in all of us is thrown right out the window. All we can do is try to enjoy the special moments because they will be gone in a blink of an eye!

  • I missed the sneak peeks of Brave because we were away. Will parents of boys like it too? (I’m kidding really, since I get heckled for my last comment.)

    Are any of us the moms we plan to be? I would guess no.

  • Best review. Beautifully said. I’m constantly reminded that I have a long way to go in making my dreams of being a father add up to the realities of being a father.

    • Thanks, Charlie. “Beautifully said” means a lot coming from you.

  • I know which scene you are talking about it and I felt the same way. I cried and wondered, “am I doing everything wrong?” I also agree, ALL mothers with daughters need to see this movie. ALL of them.

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