I can’t imagine that many of you dads have seen Tim Burton’s 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland, but then again, maybe you have!
One of the reasons I love this film is because of the way it parallels the developmental process of a young girl who is struggling to figure out her place in her own life story.
I acknowledge that at first glance this may seem like a story that doesn’t have much relevance to the father-daughter relationship. But if you take a second look, I believe there’s a powerful lesson for you, dad, if you’d like another insight for understanding your ever-growing daughter.
The movie begins with our heroine, teenage Alice Kingsleigh, inadvertently tumbling down a rabbit hole (for a second time in her life), only to find herself trapped inside a strange land that has turned her world upside down and backwards. Alice has no memory of having ever been there before, a position that is supported by the quirky Mad Hatter (played by Johnny Depp) who tells her that she couldn’t possibly be “the real Alice” whom he had met years earlier because the last time she had been there she was “much more…muchier.”
Then he hits a home run insult by indisputably declaring his observation as he tells her, “You’ve lost your muchness.”
When I first heard that line in the movie there was something about the unusual expression that caught me off guard. Surprisingly, tears welled up in my eyes as these unique words reverberated inside me. For I, too, have wondered if I’d “lost my muchness” somewhere along the way. I just hadn’t ever worded it quite like that, which is why it took my breath away for a moment.
I sat there and pondered over what my muchness would look like if I actually even had it. Or worse, I wondered whether I even had any muchness in the first place.
If you’re asking yourself: What on earth does Michelle mean by “muchness?” I will answer by defining it in relation to your daughter. “Muchness” is:
- that part of her that is passionate and scared, all at the same time;
- that part of her that sometimes wears you out yet is tied to her calling and gifting;
- that part of her that makes her uniquely spectacular!
For me, just like with Alice, the word “much” hasn’t always been positive. In fact, the first memory that comes to mind is that of my elementary teachers (yes, more than one) writing four infamous words on my report cards:
“Michelle talks too much.”
(Cue visual memories of me standing in the school hallway as punishment for my inability to keep my verbal comments to myself!)
Scanning further in my mental file cabinet, the second item in the “much” folder is that of the comments I heard repeatedly from a guy I dated for a couple of years in my late 20’s. He seemed to thrive on telling me things that he thought were “too much” about me. According to him I used the words “cute” and “awesome” too much, I laughed too much, I weighed too much, and on it went (hard to believe that I dated him for two years, which was clearly way too long. You can read more about it on page 147-148 of my book).
Here’s why I’m telling you this story.
It’s because I can relate to Alice in that somewhere along my life journey I began to believe that I didn’t have any muchness, which translated to letting others define me rather than using my own voice to stand strong. All of that morphed into an internalized belief that I wasn’t enough: good enough, strong enough, thin enough, this enough, that enough (which is another way of saying that I’d “lost my muchness”).
As a result, I got lost in my own developmental process and was drawn to a guy who reinforced the lies, a guy who seemed to ally with the insecure part of me that was looking for someone outside of myself to validate and approve of me.
Alice though, by the end of the movie, accepts the fact that she has to confront something that terrifies her. Though afraid, she boldly faces her fears as she fights and then slays the dreaded Jabberwochy. As she steps forward, sword in hand, she boldly declares her truth with a heroic battle cry, “Lost my muchness, have I?”
I LOVE that line!
Alice uncovers a newfound courage by going through the battle to discover who she really is, which includes living out her destiny to end the Red Queen’s evil reign of terror. We watch as Alice beautifully transforms from an insecure, tentative girl into a fierce warrior woman who powerfully kicks timidity to the curb.
It was up to her and her alone to fight the dragon in order to save the kingdom.
But the deeper emerging truth is that she faced her own dragon, and in the process saved herself.
Dad, the questions I pose to you are these:
- Has your daughter found her muchness?
- Have you encouraged her to find her muchness by helping her take steps outside of her comfort zone while you provide support?
- Is there a battle she needs to face that inherently holds the key to her discovering and embracing her muchness?
Dad, you are vital to assisting your daughter on her journey to find and hold on to her muchness. Or if she’s lost it, to help her to find it again.
- Make sure to tell her that she can do whatever she believes is possible
- Encourage her to dream past her fears
- Remind her that she has to face obstacles in order to be fierce
- Let her know that you will always be there to cheer her on
- Communicate that you believe in her until she believes in herself
Because the truth is that your daughter’s muchness will change the world.