When I was a child, I wasn’t really into the princess thing. But there was one movie that I absolutely adored: Cinderella. I remember having one of those audio books in the characters voices and I can still hear the fairy godmother singing, “Salagadoola menchicka boola! Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo!” I can hear the clock striking midnight. I can hear the funny little voices of the mice. It’s all so clear in my head.
My daughter, Ivy and I watched the new version that came out a while back – and I fell in love all over again. I know, I know… I’ve heard the criticism. Cinderella is a push-over. What does that teach our daughters?! But sometimes I think we get so tied up in the message we are looking for that we don’t see the beauty of the imperfection. Yes, Cinderella took a lot of abuse from her step-mother and step-sisters. Yes, she could have freely walked away. Yet, out of some strong – and perhaps incomprehensible – loyalty, she stayed. And she never hardened. And she remained kind.
And she won in the end while still being true to herself.
So, I’m sticking to my Cinderella love. In fact, I may make and sell t-shirts that say Cinderella was a Feminist …just to confuse people.
Let’s talk about the Step-Mother.
When I was little and watched Cinderella, I used to get so sad for her because her mother was gone and now she had this… step-mother. When I watched The Parent Trap as a child (the original, because – yes – I am that old), I cheered for the mom and dad to get back together, and I wanted that new girlfriend to beat it. In fact, in every movie, television show or book where there is a step-parent vs. a possible reunion with the “real” mom or dad, I have always, always rooted for the mom or dad.
In fact, I still find myself doing it now when I watch movies or television shows. For example, my husband was traveling recently for work and I rented the movie Mother’s Day. Jennifer Aniston plays a divorced mom who has an exceptionally good relationship with her ex-husband. But then he announces he’s remarried and my immediate internal response was: No! He has to get back together with Jennifer Aniston! They have to be a family again!
And then I remind myself: YOU are a step-mom. YOU are the second-wife, you jackass. YOU are the one you root against every time. What the hell is wrong with you?!
The thing is, no little girl out there is playing with her dolls and pretending to be a step-mom (unless the step-mom is a witch). No little boy or girl is out there daydreaming about the day they will become a step-parent. It’s just not on the bucket list. And no little girl or boy out there wants their parents to break up or get divorced. That is not part of the dream. And nobody roots for it.
I was never one of those kids who dreamed about my wedding – or had a timeline to find a husband. However, I still had this programmed idea of a what a family looked like. Original parents stayed original parents and, for some reason, the disruption of that on television or movies triggered a sadness or uncomfortableness in me. I wanted everything to stay status-quo, put it away in its tidy box and not have to think about it again. Because that is the perfect ending… two parents who stay together.
And as much as I would love that for every child – my step-daughter included – that mindset is what can actually chip away at a child’s understanding of what a family really is. Children need to see love. And love does not get pushed out of a copy machine. There is not one duplicate family out there. Each family cuts their own string of paper dolls and not one looks just like the other. This is what I hope our children know. And this is what I hope our children find comfort in.
Your children’s family may have a mom and dad and two kids and a pet hamster.
My step-daugther’s family has a mom and dad and another mom and another dad and two kids and two dogs and a cat and two other cats and a guinea pig.
And both of the above are families.
So, Cinderella got a raw deal. And it happens. But you know who didn’t? Greg, Marsha, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy. Those little snots had it made!
Root for the Mike and Carol Bradys.
And the Lorelei Gilmores…
And the Mitchell and Cams…
And Nemo’s dad…
And Tyrion from Game of Thrones…
(He really has nothing to do with any of this, I just love him)
Root for love and every paper doll, including your own.