About 6 months ago, during a sleepover with her cousins, my daughter wanted to watch the new Beauty and the Beast movie. Considering the cartoon was one of many Disney staples from my childhood, I figured, why not. What I hadn’t expected was a trail of nightmares to follow.
My daughter couldn’t focus on the happy ending of the fairy tale. Instead, she could not get past the scary version of the Beast or the realistic wolves. Following this movie, we went through nights of horrible dreams and prepping to prevent the dreams each night. We put a timed lamp in her room as well as several additional night lights. We even bought an Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – Black for her room. Our thought was we could use it to play the music she liked each night and also “drop in” on our Dot when she needed us.
It all seemed to work… sort of for a short time. But, all it took was a reminder of the Beast, and we started all over again. Halloween was the first reminder.
We were having fun pursuing the Halloween section at Target. Pushing all the buttons on the decorations, trying on obnoxious hats, thoroughly annoying the Target employees, I’m sure. Then, we came up on the very movie-like Beast mask. After pointing the mask out to my daughter, hoping to show it was just a play thing, absolute hysterics took place. She didn’t want anything to do with the mask or even go anywhere near the aisle. We knew we would be dealing with bedtime struggles again that night.
In November, at a craft show, I purchased her a dream catcher. I explained it would help keep the bad dreams locked up in its’ web but let the good ones come through. Again, this worked for a bit until we came closer to our Disney World trip.
The most magical place on Earth…
She was very excited to meet all the princesses, including Belle. However, she was very upset by the fact that Belle might be accompanied by the Beast. So many questions followed. Will I have to touch him? Can you come with me to see them? Will it be the nice Beast, or the mean one? Will the wolves be there?
I sat with her that night and explained to her that the movie, the characters are just make-believe. They can’t ever hurt her, and Daddy and I would never let anyone hurt her. They simple do not exist.
She looked at me quietly and said simply, “Belle and the Beast aren’t real?”
It was like I just told my 3-year-old Santa Clause doesn’t exist. Like a hit to the gut, I felt like the world’s worst parent. Fairy tales were by far my favorite stories growing up . I was convinced one day I would lead my own fairy tale. In one moment, I essentially destroyed that fantasy for her.
So, like any fumbling parent would, I covered and said the good people in the fairy tales are real. At the end of each movie, good wins over evil and they are the ones that live on. Pretty good on my feet I guess because I think she bought it.
As our Disney World trip came, she couldn’t be more excited. Her fairy tales were realized as she met each character. She even managed to be in the same room with the Beast at the Be Our Guest restaurant without having a complete meltdown. Her trip was highlighted by a meeting with Anna and Elsa. Her eyes lit up and I’m pretty sure she wanted to stay with Anna forever.
Later, she was talking to her aunt on the phone explaining how she met Anna and Elsa. Her aunt asked if they looked like the real ones. She stopped dead in her tracks and simply replied, “they were the real Anna and Elsa.”
Fairy tales are real…
This was the signal to me that the magic of Disney only helped my words of wisdom. She truly believed that the fairy tale was real, is real. It restored my faith in her fairy tale tale fantasy for her own life.
Now, months after we have been back from Disney, bedtime has been a world of different. She doesn’t ask a million questions about bad dreams or where we are at night. Recently, she even asked if she could start sleeping without her light on. I felt like she officially passed the horrible nightmare, scared of the dark phase. She came out of it with her fairy tale, innocent heart still in tact.