In 1965, Lesley Ann Warren co-starred with Stuart Damon in the made-for-television version of Cinderella. I was 9 and I was enthralled. It didn't matter that we didn't have a color television and I was watching the images in black and white. It didn't matter that our antenna wasn't the best and if the wind blew there was nothing but static and fuzz on the screen. All that mattered was the magic of the story and even though I knew it was a fairy tale, I believed it. Not because I thought it was real but because I wanted it to be.
This version of Cinderella was a musical and some of the songs became classics. My personal favorite was Ten Minutes Ago I Met You. I would sit on my back porch and hum it under my breath while I scanned the horizon for my Prince Charming. I envisioned him riding into my hometown in a white Corvette (I was afraid of horses) and we would drive off into the sunset where we would live happily ever after.
Recently the new version of Cinderella opened in movie theaters and I'm sure my granddaughters will love it, although personally I will miss the sound track. My oldest granddaughter is 9 and the two little granddaughters are only 2 and 3. It may be years before they are able to process and understand what I'm about to say, but I want to give them some grandmotherly advice about the movie that I hope will keep them from making some of the same assumptions I did.
1. Maybe Cinderella didn't win the stepparent lottery but don't assume all stepparents (or step-siblings) are like the ones in the movie.
Back in 1965 when I watched Cinderella on television the majority of children in my classroom (and in my school) were from homes with two parents. According to information from the 2009 Current Population Study (CPS) Report almost half of all marriages end in divorce within 15 years. Of those who get divorced, 75 percent will remarry (65 percent bring children from a previous union). Estimates suggest that by the time they are 18, anywhere from one-third to one-half of all children will have been part of a stepfamily.
By the time I started teaching in 1990, classroom demographics had changed and most of my students were from single parent homes or their parents were divorced and remarried. Being a parent is the toughest job in the world (if it's done right) and being a stepparent presents its own set of unique challenges. Never assume that the word "step" means anything more than a stop on a flight of stairs. All parents and siblings have a right to be treated the same.
2. It's okay to dream but don't sit around and wait for a fairy godmother with a magic wand to fix your problems.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said it best, "A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work."
Take school seriously. Work hard and learn as much as you can. Go to college or technical school. Join the Army or the Peace Corps. Work on building your faith and take care of your physical and mental health. Stay away from dream-stealers like drugs and alcohol. Don't limit yourself or let anyone else tell you what you can or cannot do. One day you will need your talents and skills to make your way in the world and when that day comes, you need to be ready. When the time comes to leave home you will have all the answers and power you need to get you where you want to go.
3. Prince Charming doesn't have to look like a prince and you don't have to look like a princess.
People come in all colors, shapes and sizes. A person's heart is much more important than their physical appearance. Unfortunately that's a hard concept for a lot of young people to grasp (which is another good reason to wait until you are older before having a serious relationship). Contrary to most fairy tales good guys don't always ride white horses and look like the latest pop star. When I met my Prince Charming (you call him Poppa) he was on the skinny side and wore glasses so thick they looked like the bottoms of Coke bottles. He wasn't what you would call a sharp dresser (think polyester shirts and plaid pants) but he was handsome to me. When he looked at me with his beautiful brown eyes and smiled ... I was a goner.
When Poppa met me he didn't see Cinderella in a ball gown. He saw a tall, gangly girl on the skinny side who was shaped like Olive Oil and had feet so big there is no way they would fit in a slipper of any kind. But for some reason he thought I was beautiful and when I looked at him and smiled, he was a goner.
If you wait for perfection to ride in on a white horse and sweep you off your feet, you might wait forever. Keep your eyes and your heart open. Love may come from unexpected places. It may be the boy next door or the clerk at the grocery store. It sounds like a cliche but it's true -- young men and women who fall in love with each other don't have to be be perfect, just perfect for each other.
4. Get to know your prince really well before you make a commitment.
Cinderella and Prince Charming knew they were meant to be together after meeting only twice and maybe you will fall in love at first sight too; it does happen. But falling in love and staying in love are two very different things. Ideally after the prince found the foot that fit the slipper they should have had a nice, long courtship before they rode off into the sunset.
When you fall in love... Take. Your. Time. So many young couples go from 0 to 60 in just a few days or weeks. There are lots of reasons why this is NOT a good idea. Get to know his family and friends. Make sure he spends time with your parents. Find out what you have in common and spend time sharing your mutual interests. If you can't find anything in common that you like to do, then develop some common interests. Marriage is supposed to be forever and forever will go by quickly when you are busy doing things you love with someone you love.
5. Forget the glass slippers and wear good shoes.
Cinderella could have broken her neck running down stairs in high heels. Not only are they not made for running, they aren't good for your body. If you don't believe me do a little research on the computer and read about the effects of wearing heels over long periods of time.
6. Finally, about riding off into the sunset and living happily ever after...
That makes a great ending for a movie but of all the things I want you to know about Cinderella, this one is the most important. Don't expect your life or your relationships to be all sunshine and roses. None of us are perfect and none of us are totally responsible for another person's happiness.
Prince Charming won't make Cinderella happy if she isn't happy in her own skin and vice versa. I realize this topic is too deep for you now, but years from now when you re-read these words, you will understand. Marriage is work and relationships are complicated. Add to that the ups and downs of life and you are bound to hit some rough patches. Expect some rain along with the sunshine and treat each other with kindness. Be slow to speak and quick to forgive.
The real magic, and the glue that keeps a couple together, is love. "Happy Ever After" is a myth, but love isn't ... it's real. And if you are lucky enough to find it, cherish it and treat it as if it were a fragile glass slipper.
P.S. My grandchildren are my happy ever after!