Mommy Issues. Daddy Issues.

Olive fairy

An angelic figure stands over a young girl who looks at a portrait, perhaps of a missing parent. Illustration from the Olive Fairy Book by Andrew Lang

Fairy tales are full of orphans. No parents, or bad ones, not only give the main characters a need to survive, but they don’t have anyone in the way of their doing it. They are on their own to grow and learn, to try whatever desperate quest may be necessary.

Villains try to stop them, witches, wolves, etc., I admit, but the trick is for the character to recognize the villain and to outwit her by cunning, brute force, cooperation, anything but sheer dumb luck. The outer demons just call forth the inner demons: resentment, self-doubt, phobias, cowardice.

How many of our inner demons come from our family of origin, our learned behaviors? This is not a “Mommie Dearest” bash nor a plaint of “I ain’t got no Daddy,” but we do learn from our parents what they learned from theirs. We either follow their footsteps or carve out our own opposite path, still fighting with the family story, often unconsciously. Without conscious awareness, no escape from the family story is possible.

My fairy godmother’s clients have issues. The girl has lost her mother, and the two boys, their fathers, through the machinations of the local villain, a controlling, manipulative type, with a charming, sweet side, if she likes you, and you do what she advises. I’m still dragging her depths to see why she’s motivated to do what she does. Having a purely evil character is no more fun than having one who is just insane.

So what do motherless girls do for a role model? What do fatherless boys do?

Often they fantasize about who the missing parent is, and how no other person of that gender quite measures up. They imagine how different life would be with the absent parent, and they long to find that other and prove themselves worthy. Failing that, they may try to take on the role of the missing spouse, trying to look after the remaining parent, especially if that person is not doing such a great job of holding things together. In the WIP, lots of things are falling apart.

Does it all come down to needing to be loved? Learning how to love?

One thing magic can neither cause nor overcome is true love, whether it be parent and child, lover and lover, or some other variation of friend and friend. How can a child not wonder why the parent is not there, not have some resentment of being betrayed and abandoned, not have some longing for that gap to be filled, preferably not by an evil stepparent?

Makes you wonder why there are no evil stepfathers in fairy tales? Fathers are disreputable enough, millers in particular putting their daughters at risk, but they have nothing on kings for abuse and desire for incest. Step mothers just put their own interests, or those of their own children, ahead of the character’s, completely understandable from a different perspective.

How are these issues resolved? What happens if the missing parent returns? If the missing parent is proved dead? Or if the parent turns out to be one assumed to be the character’s deepest enemy? Those are the questions I seek to answer.

Mommy issues. Daddy issues. We won’t talk about mine here, but I’m sure they will show through.

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12 Responses to Mommy Issues. Daddy Issues.

  1. Arwen says:

    I’m fascinated by fairy tales. I even have a non-fiction coming of fairy tale tarot spreads. This was an intriguing look into how they work in your fiction. Thanks.

    • Charlotte Henley Babb says:

      I’d love to see an ARC of the tarot book. I do read, and very much like the new Steampunk set, and the Osho set. I have a set–forget the name–that is based in fairy tales, aimed at young children.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. LOL We all have them… wonder what the next generation will say about us.

    • I fear to ask. I will say that my daughter and I get along much better than my mom and I ever did, probably my problems rather than my mom’s. I do know that the Gen-X women I know seem not to have the issues Boomers have…different kinds of shifts in the culture I guess.

  3. Nancy Kay says:

    Mothers seem to get the short end of the stick no matter what we do or don’t do.

  4. Linda Ursin says:

    I hope my daughter will be more satisfied with how I am as a mother, than I was of my mom.

  5. Susan says:

    Very interesting questions you pose here. Certainly gets the mind going…

    Thanks for this post.

  6. Amy Putkonen says:

    I was intrigued by your comment about there being no evil step-fathers. I never noticed that before, but there really aren’t. I suppose that it is like Nancy said, mothers get all the flack. I am both a mother and a daughter, so I can relate to both ends of this. As a mother of a young woman who spends half her time with me and half her time with her dad, I often wonder how this will affect her life, ultimately. She does have a step-dad and while he can be a bear sometimes, he has helped in many ways that her dad and I just aren’t able to.

    My daughter has always had a fascination with orphans. I wonder sometimes if she feels like one, going back and forth. I can at least say that she has had the opportunity to know her dad, which I am glad for. When I grew up, my parents stayed together “for the kids”. It was about 15 years of misery for them and although I am glad that I had both of them in my life, it was tough on all of us. I didn’t want that for my daughter. I wanted her to witness relationships that work so that she would be able to make choices in her life that would be based on that instead of on my mistakes. We all just do the best that we can and I know my parents did.

    • Charlotte Henley Babb says:

      My daughter had issues with being swapped between her father and me, but her solution was to check out of the real world and live in her imagination. She was able to keep up with school and such without a lot of thought, so she drew cartoons and made up stories, and still does. She’s an illustrator and writer.

      I think all of us go through a time when we feel like orphans, when we feel that our parents are some kind of aliens who must have brought home the wrong kid from the hospital. I’m sure that children of divorced parents feel it more than most.

  7. I hadn’t noticed there were no step fathers! I seperated from my husband and my daughter went to live with him for a short period. I lived near and she could come back whenever she wanted to. It was, fortunately an amicable arrangement – She and I are very close now so I’m hoping I got it right!

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