Don’t be fooled by their bright exteriors and the number of musical numbers, mama. Disney films are full of beautiful life lessons that hold water (even now for us as adults), with thoughtful lessons on everything from parenting to adventures. Here are twelve of my favourites.
Parents are some of the most selfless people out there
The Little Mermaid/Finding Nemo/Brave
Now this is a truth I’m sure you’ve had to come to grips with a lot, but one that makes you respect your own parents even more once you fully understand it. Disney does an amazing job at showing us just what parents will do for their children: Elinor fights off anybody trying to hurt Merida with her newfound strength, Marlin literally crosses oceans for Nemo while King Triton gives up his crown, health and powers to save his little girl. Love makes you capable of the greatest sacrifices, all in the name of your children.
Make time for your partner
There’s a reason you married your partner and it’s probably got a lot to do with the whole love of your life and best friend shindig. Like Mr and Mrs Incredible from The Incredibles, parenthood is going to force the two of you to grow and communication is a big part of holding it all together. Don’t let things spiral out of control and wait for a supervillain to wreck it all; schedule that date night, reconnect and hash things out. Raising kids is a super heroic task and it’s so much easier when you’re on the same team.
Be open to wonder
Peter Pan/Treasure Planet/Tangled
It is so easy to be skeptical as you get older mamas, but that tends to suck the joy out of a lot of things. Take a leaf out of Rapunzel, the Darlings and eventually Jim Hawkin’s books and allow yourself to really experience life to the fullest without second guessing it at every turn. There’s beauty waiting around every corner if you’re open to it. Note: look to your kids for inspiration on this one, they’re going to be way better than you are at it.
Judge people by their character, not the way they look
Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast hits both spectrums of this, though people tend to remember the one hairier side more than the other. Just as the surliest and ugliest of Beasts can actually have a heart of gold, the most attractive people like Gaston can be absolutely nasty. The only real way to tell is to get to know the person and once you’ve discovered who’s monstrous inside, I’d recommend staying well away and maybe hiding all the pitchforks and torches.
Dreams can change and they sometimes don’t come true. (And that’s okay.)
Princess and the Frog/Tangled
Just as our bodies change as we grow older (seriously, those grey hairs need to stop), so do our priorities and life goals. Don’t feel guilty if your dreams, big or small, fall by the quayside; what you wanted when you were single and 25 and what you’ll want at 35 with kids are probably going to be very different. Tiana’s father from The Princess and the Frog had big dreams of opening his own restaurant and while he never achieved them, he lived a life full of happiness and family love. Pursue your dreams wholeheartedly mama, but don’t worry if it all doesn’t work out or they need a bit of readjusting. As Eugene from Tangled says, “Well, that’s the good part I guess. You get to find a new dream.”
The people we love never truly leave us
The Lion King/Lilo & Stitch
Okay, so maybe the people who leave us don’t shout from the stars a la The Lion King, but the sentiment’s there. When you love somebody, they leave a fingerprint on your heart and there’s nothing that time, distance or even death can do to take that away from you – particularly when it comes to family. Although it’s devastating when they go, it is possible to move on knowing that you carry them and your memories with you always. Lilo & Stitch sums this up with absolute grace: “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind (or forgotten).”
You’re never too old for an adventure
Whether you’ve accidentally stowed away on an old man’s flying house or wind up having to travel across the world, great adventures wait for no one. While it’s arguably a little harder to be spontaneous with the kiddos, there’s no reason not to look for even the little adventures here in Dubai like camping out in the desert with the family or skiing down slopes in shopping malls. Don’t be afraid to shake things up a little mama, it’s such a shame to waste the world around you.
Women can do whatever they set their minds to
Mulan’s totally our home girl and her tenacity, independence and butt kicking skills are definitely ideals we strive towards. She’s all about breaking the mould and destroying stifling expectations of women, forging her own path and doing a pretty awesome job doing it. Just as Mulan never settled for less, you don’t have to either mama – go start that business, pick up that instrument or save ancient China in a dress and a sword. The only person holding you back is you.
True heroism isn’t about physical strength
Probably one of the most underrated Disney films aside from Treasure Planet and Atlantis, Hercules questions what it means to be a real hero at every turn. While Hercules’ strength is certainly nothing to dismiss, it’s his moments of kindness, selflessness and love that we remember; whether he’s saving children from the Hydra or diving into the Underworld to rescue the love of his life. As his father tells him, “A true hero is measured by his heart” and that’s totally something we can get behind.
Let it go
This is equally the most loved and hated line from any Disney film, but there’s definitely water in Queen Elsa’s empowering solo. There’s always going to be someone out there criticising you and it’s also really easy to be self-critical (parenting’s a pretty hard job), but letting it all bog you down just isn’t worth it. Take everything with a grain of salt and don’t let anyone keep you from being yourself, not even you.
Just keep swimming
One of the most beautiful speeches I’ve ever seen came from a lady who, at her lowest point with next to no cash in her bank account, a failed business and a daughter in the next room watching Finding Nemo to send to school, heard Ellen Degeneres sing the words ‘just keep swimming’ and somehow found the strength to keep on going. (She now runs one of the best private kitchens in Hong Kong and is an incubator for new food start ups – Lori, you’re amazing.) Even when everything seems to have fallen apart, just keep on swimming mama. Things will get better.
A good pair of shoes changes everything
You know exactly what we’re talking about. RIP bank account.
Featured image sourced via Lyndsay Almeida Photography