Once upon a time I loved princesses who let down their hair, got kissed awake by princes and fit into glass slippers. I dreamed of being saved from the dragon, the evil stepmother or the wicked witch by a dashing prince on the white horse. I planned the elaborate fairytale fantasy of marriage twice, but the reality was that I was not a princess, just a housewife and a mom and it is damn hard work.
What would happen if we taught our daughters that prince charming wasn't going to whisk them away to a fabulous castle filled with blue birds that sang and teapots that danced? Would we shatter their dreams, or would be we be teaching them facts that would prepare them for the realities of motherhood and marriage? Because, let's face it, life isn't a fairy tale and happily every after is harder to achieve as divorce becomes easier to obtain.
What Do We Learn From Fairy Tales?
I'll admit that some fairy tales teach good morals, but other than that, what do we actually learn from them? That the stepmothers are all evil? Seriously? We all know that is a bunch of bull, and not only that, but it is a stigma that all stepmothers have had to fight since the onset of Cinderella. Thank you to Charles Perrault for starting that lovely rumor!
Of course, not everything we learn from fairy tales is bad. For instance Snow White taught us not to eat apples at Halloween because they might be poisoned or have razor blades stuck in them. On the other hand, Snow White did go off with seven strangers and live with them, and I don't think that is something we would want our children to emulate when we tell them daily about "stranger danger".
The Princess Myth
I don't know any little girls that haven't gone through the "princess" phase, where they pull out the Disney costume of their favorite princess and wear it all day, every day and even sleep in it. No matter what you do, you can't get them to take it off. Does it damage them to wear it? No. Is it irritating? Yes. Does it teach them anything? No. Do we want them to grow up thinking that they will be princesses? No.
The reality of life is that unless you are born into royalty or marry into royalty, you will not be a princess, and even princesses' lives aren't like those in the fairy tales -- except for maybe the castle part. But the myth of the princess wedding with the big dress, tons of flowers, bridesmaids, flower girls and the prince waiting at the end of the aisle prevails, and is what many girls perceive to be the American dream. When the wedding is over, the dream becomes the white picket fence with a perfect house and two gorgeous kids and the best dog that is perfectly trained -- utter bliss every single day. Those of us that have been there know that this is not reality.
Demystifying the Myth
How do we demystify the myth without tainting our children or leaving them feeling bereft, with no hope for a future filled with love? It seems to me that putting more emphasis on the marriage and less emphasis on the wedding is a perfect place to start. The wedding is a couple of hours and the marriage is a lifetime. Isn't it more productive to spend more time planning the marriage than the wedding? It seems so obvious, yet so few people -- if any -- actually do it. Perhaps this may explain high divorce rates.
In the end, would we be doing our daughters a disservice by demystifying the myth of the fairy tale by letting them in on the real secret to a happy ending -- which is that marriage is not all rainbows and flowers but hard work and compromise? Or should we continue to allow them to figure it out for themselves? How do we think that has been working for us? Or better yet, how has that worked for you? It didn't work for me.