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    The Mother as Fairy Truth

    November 10, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]Y[/dropcap]esterday, we began reading through Andrew Lang’s version of Prince Darling from The Blue Fairy Book. If you are unfamiliar with the tale, I’ll give you a quick summary of the first half (and suggest you read it all for yourself later!): The Good King is tested by the Fairy Truth and proven to be actually good. Because he passes the test, the fairy offers him a wish granted. The king immediately thinks of his beloved son, Prince Darling. His wish is that the fairy would be Prince Darling’s friend. The fairy offers to make the prince handsome or rich or powerful — whichever the king would choose. And then the king says:

    I do not ask … these things for my son … but if you will make him the best of princes, I shall indeed be grateful to you. What good would it do him to be rich, or handsome, or to possess all the kingdoms of the world if he were wicked? You know well he would still be unhappy. Only a good man can be really contented.

    The Mother as Fairy Truth

    We all hope, naturally, for the swift granting of this beautiful, perfect wish. But it seems that the king has inadvertently stumbled upon the boundaries of Fairy Truth’s power:

    You are quite right, … but it is not in my power to make Prince Darling a good man unless he will help me; he must try hard to become good; I can only promise to give him good advice, to scold him for his faults, and to punish him if he will not correct and punish himself.

    There is the rub. Even a magical fairy cannot make someone good. Purity of heart is God’s business.

    We had a bad start to our week. There was a lot of misbehavior around here, and I was quickly worn down by it all. It is one thing to correct and train preschoolers all day long; it is another to deal with the sins of older children who “should know better” — who do know better.

    I found myself having one of those talks with a child, where all the uncomfortable yucky things have to be said. And in that moment, I bumped up against the limits of my own power. As we began to talk about discipline and its purpose, and one word led to another word, and suddenly I found myself saying that I can’t make you good, nor can I make you want to be good, child. I can’t.

    The interesting thing is that I think sometimes children — if they have good hearts at all — really would rather if Mother could make them good. It would, after all, save them all the trouble of having to deal with pain or commitment or self-control or … God.

    It was a couple days later that I read aloud Prince Darling for the second time in my career as a mother. I have loads more experience now than I did upon the first reading, so it struck me differently this time. I am Fairy Truth, I thought to myself. Only without magical powers. I can only be their friend and helper along the way. I can point out the path. I can give good advice. I can punish and correct. But it will only work if it is in concert with their own little wills.

    Maybe this is why the sage of Proverbs asks for nothing less than his son’s heart.


    2017 Update:

    While I had read Home Education by Charlotte Mason several times when I first wrote this post in 2011, the ideas found in the final portion of the final chapter hadn’t yet sunk into my soul. When I look back on this day and this hard conversation, now so many years ago, I think it would have helped me greatly to think in this vein:

    Jesus, Our Savior. Here is a thought to be brought tenderly before the child in the moments of misery that follow wrong-doing. “My poor little boy, you have been very naughty to-day! Could you not help it?” “No, mother,” with sobs. “No, I suppose not; but there is a way of help.” And then the mother tells her child how the Lord Jesus is our Saviour, because He saves us from our sins. (p. 351)

    And then later:

    The Indwelling of Christ is a thought particularly fit for the children, because their large faith does not stumble at the mystery, their imagination leaps readily to the marvel, that the King Himself should inhabit a little child’s heart. (p. 352)


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  • Reply Kathryn December 8, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Thank you for this! I just listened to this story with my son today, then reread this post. I’m reminded again that I need to be praying for God to work in my children’s hearts, and that my job is to disciple them but I am not responsible for the outcome, but God is. And just like in the story, it is not only discipline but God’s kindness (and ours) that leads us and our children to repentance.

  • Reply Mama Rachael December 5, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    I”m so glad this made it into last weekend’s summary. I need this right now, to be reminded of the Fairy Truths in my life and the ways I am the Fairy Truth for others.

  • Reply PocketsoftheFuture November 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    I constantly blame myself so I appreciated reading this. I need a Fairy Truth to help me stop doing this for every time I blame myself where I oughtn’t, I lose the opportunity to indicate what is really true to myself and others. It seems like there is more to say on this subject but I am not sure exactly what. It is even deeper than it appears perhaps. Thank you.

  • Reply Mystie November 12, 2011 at 4:55 am

    Wow. What an excellent reminder.

  • Reply amy in peru November 12, 2011 at 3:36 am

    how do you do this every time? you’ve nailed it. all the way home. just recently I heard myself say the exact same thing to my eldest son… ‘son, you have to choose it… you know, that thing you KNOW you ought to do. i cannot nor will I make you do it.’ and next time i think i shall say, ‘how do you think i could be of help to you… to choose right?’

    and then behind the other side of the door, from a sensitive little girl begging me in tears ‘please, mommy, why are the boys so mean to me?’ and I have to tell her what seems like it doesn’t help, ‘sweetheart, i cannot make them good. they have to choose it. they know what they ought to do, and they must learn, just like you, to decide to do it. it’s hard, isn’t it, sometimes?’

    and i know it is. because it’s a battle i face everyday as well… most days i don’t feel much like a fairy. shall we tell them it often doesn’t get any easier…?

  • Reply thissideofthedoor November 12, 2011 at 3:15 am

    Oh, Brandy- what a timely post! I sent my DS (5 yrs old) to bed this evening exhausted from a day of ‘battle’. Every good thing we tried to do today ended in stubborness, back talk, and frustration for all.

    And each time I found myself wondering, “Am I doing enough? Is he heading down a path that he will someday regret?”

    You and Fairy Truth are SO right- we cannot ‘save’ our children from their own flesh. Only Jesus can save them, only He can give my little son freedom… I can do what I can do- the rest is between the Lord and my son… And he couldn’t be in better hands!!

    Thanks for this today…


  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts November 10, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Welcome to Afterthoughts, Jane! 🙂

  • Reply Jane Jasmine November 10, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    What an insightful post, ringing with truth! Thanks for sharing.

    -A new fan in Maryland, Jane

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts November 10, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Yes, Pam, we’ll take all the help we can get, right? 🙂

    BfB: Thank you! We have The Landing of the Pilgrims, but I try and save that for the proper Ambleside year. You are right, though, that it is well-written. If you write a post, would you mind mentioning what ages you think they are most appropriate for? I have friends with different ages of children asking about Thanksgiving books, and since that is a weakness in my own collection, naturally I asked you. 🙂

  • Reply Books For Breakfast November 10, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Brandy, you asked me about Thanksgiving books a few days back. I just remembered a few more. The Pilgrim Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins is a must. It’s a longer book, so if your kids are wanting something more in depth, this would be a good choice. Also, there is a set of books (the whole thing is awesome) called Through Golden Windows, with one volume called Stories of Early Americans. There are several stories and poems in that volume that are Thanksgiving/Pilgrim/Native American related. And lastly there is a book in the Landmark Books series called The Landing of the Pilgrims (Book 2), I haven’t read it yet so I can’t give it a personal stamp of approval, but I do like other books in this series. And it’s written by James Daughterty (Andy and the Lion), so it’s probably well written. Sorry to fill your comment section on something unrelated to your post (well done, by the way) but I wanted to make sure you read this well before Thanksgiving day. Maybe I’ll have to do a post on this soon.

  • Reply Pam... November 10, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Well Fairy Truth, be sure to fly by here every once in awhile and drop some fairy dust. Couldn’t hurt, right?

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