The Stuff of Nightmares

Viktor Vasnetsov. The Frog Tsarevna. 1918
Viktor Vasnetsov. The Frog Tsarevna. 1918

My sweet daughter came to me this morning, clutching my hip as tears streamed down her face. “I had a sad dream,” she exclaimed, sobbing hard.

“I’m so sorry.” I smoothed her hair. “I hate sad dreams. But the good thing is, they’re only dreams. They’re not true.”

She looked up at me, panic and grief etched in her expression. “But what if it comes TRUE?” she wailed.

“Do you want to tell me about it?” I imaged she had envisioned something truly awful, like her father dying or the world ending or something equally disastrous.

Gulping air, she nodded. “I dreamt I was in fourth grade,” she began, looking at me with anxious eyes. “And I was…I was…I was in one school while HE was in another!”

It was all I could do not to laugh. My daughter, my darling daughter, was angsting about the current object of her affections not being in school with her next year. When I reassured her as to how unlikely that was, she yelled, “But he MOVED in the dream, mom!”

My little bleeding heart romantic.

I knew it would be of no use to tell her it was unlikely Mr. Current Love would be her Forever Love, or even next year’s love. Maybe he won’t even be next month’s. I knew, because I was just like her at her age.

May she grow up to find her True Love, even as she discovers herself and celebrates who she is and what she can do. For in my world, being feminist and independent are in no way incompatible with seeking one’s own Happily Ever After. In fact, they enable it.

It’s one of the reasons I love romance novels. Most of them feature strong, independent heroines who aren’t ashamed to admit (at least by the end of the story) that wanting love, that seeking that intimate connection with another person in no way limits who they are or what they can do, but rather fosters immense personal growth.

I don’t fight against the part of me that craves romance, the part of me that loves sappy stories, the part of me that focuses wholly on my relationship with my husband. I celebrate it. I celebrate it, even as I cringe when watching my emotionally expressive daughter, knowing she’s going to get her heart broken at some point or another. A person who feels so deeply can’t avoid that. Nor should she, I guess. It’s how she will figure out who the right frog to kiss is, the one who’ll end up being her prince.

And if she decides eventually that being her own princess is enough, no prince required, I’m good with that, too.

Although I am hoping she’ll let go of the Drama Queen crown.

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