3da413cc59767c81947358cf9c626a80I’m currently working on a production of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty: a three hour marathon of traditional ballet set to some of the most magnificent music ever written. Sleeping Beauty begins and ends at church, opening with an infant christening and ending with a solemn wedding procession. As a Mormon, I can’t help seeing the story as an allegory of LDS life beginning with infant blessing and ending with temple marriage.

In the opening scene, good fairies bestow gifts upon the newborn Aurora: beauty, courage, sweetness, and musical talent. LDS infant blessings offer similar pronouncements: faith, wisdom, marriage in the temple, etc. Naturally Aurora’s parents didn’t invite the evil fairy Carabosse. Carabosse expected to be invited, for she is a powerful and important figure. And had she been invited, perhaps she would have given Aurora a more benign curse, like vanity or jealousy. Instead, she exacts revenge by pronouncing the worst possible curse: death at the hand of a spinning needle on Aurora’s 16th birthday.

Like Aurora’s parents, LDS parents want to avoid any evil influences that might come upon their beautiful new infant. But in doing so, they risk offending powerful evil fairies. In today’s culture of helicopter parenting, questions like these frequently arise:  Are children more prone to asthma because we keep them too clean? Would sheltering them from evils of public school through home school do more harm than good in the long run? Does overprotection leave our children less safe?

But more important than these questions is the question: who is this child? Is this a perfect, innocent spirit fresh from heaven who just needs to be protected from the evils of the world? Or is this a screaming, selfish bundle of nerves that needs to learn patience and selflessness? The answer is a little bit of both. God sends every infant to this earth with a unique set of blessings and curses. If our infant was blessed with faith, wisdom or courage, it could equally be cursed with laziness, doubt, or fear.  God “gives unto men weakness that they may be humble.” He sends us thorns in the flesh and often restricts the number of our talents to 1 or 2, rather than the expected 5. Carabosse attends our baby blessing, whether we see her or not.  When we don’t acknowledge her, we do so at the peril of our newborn infant. We risk projecting unrealistic expectations and perfectionism on our child. I am reminded of a quote from Brené Brown’s beautiful TED talk on vulnerability:

“When you hold those perfect little babies in your arms, our job is not to say, “Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh.” That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say,”You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” [1]

“You’re imperfect, you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” When I first heard this phrase, it struck me so powerfully that I had to repress a sob. We are worthy. But not because of how good or perfect we are. Our worth is intrinsic. Our weakness is intrinsic. As parents, we show the greatest love to our children when we accept them in their fulness, with both the good and evil fairies, both the blessings and curses. We recognise that they came to earth “wired for struggle,” and that we were wired to struggle with them. Carabosse and her curses are powerful and important, and she will not be turned away. If she is, she will exact a terrible revenge, a revenge seen in the destruction of so many souls ravaged by the burden of their parent’s perfectionistic expectations.

[1] Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability is one of the best and most popular TED talks out there and if you haven’t seen it already, you will definitely enjoy it.