As I sit here working my way to my 40s, taking stock of my life, I wonder how I got here. How do we start off college as "ball busting" career women and find ourselves in a house, with kids, growing up? As I was reading bedtime stories to B, I think I figured it out.
Basically, I think I have it pretty good. I live in a nice house (albeit sometimes messy and dusty if the cleaning lady hasn't been there), in a nice neighborhood (cul de sac and all), where kids can go outside in the evenings and play. We have nice things, furniture, a recently remodeled kitchen, and the ability to buy ourselves things we want (within reason) and take trips when we can. I have a career. I have a beautiful baby, and the kind of life that allowed me to be home with her rather than having to put her in daycare at 6 weeks and work to pay for it. (More about the career choices another time.)
But even with all of this, sometimes there are hiccups. Sometimes we lose sight of the forest for the trees. Sometimes we have friends who are right there with us in surburbia, and then in an instant, they are gone, divorced- house for sale- moving on. Why? I think it's because we all want to believe the fairy tale. We want to believe that there is such thing as "happily ever after." We don't want to believe that our knights in shining armor are fallible. Before we meet our Charmings, we date a string of guys who are either losers and treated us like crap, or were nice enough but didn't know what they wanted and couldn't commit. We tread water in the pool of available men and get nowhere. Then "He" comes along and Boom! A catch. He is smart, good looking and treats us like a queen. Fairy tale ending, here we come!
Wrong. Life, here we come. Dirty dishes in the sink, here we come. Laundry piled up on the closet floor, here we come. Struggle to make ends meet, here we come.
So where did this idea come from, this concept that we all need our fairy tale endings, that we all deserve to be swept off our feet. Well, I blame Grimm. And not even Grimm, but Disney's interpretation of Grimm and those pesky fairy tales. Tell me, have you read Cinderella or the Little Mermaid or Snow White, or Sleeping Beauty lately? As I was reading B a bedtime story one night, I realized, this is where it comes from. At a young age, we as little girls start to hear about a guy coming to rescue us, to save us from whatever demon or beast or monster we happen to be fighting. Good prevails over evil and the girl gets her prince, the castle and the fairy godmother, complete with the tiny slippers. We go to sleep at night dreaming of the time when someone will take us away from having to take out the garbage, wash the dishes, set the table, do the laundry and clean the bathroom. We dream of an automatic dishwasher, regular pedicures and fluff and fold service. And according to these fairy tales, a man can help us get it.
Sometimes, I think we still believe in that fairy tale. We still want our prince to be above the fray, and still be our knight in shining armor. Is that safe?
So there I sit every night, recounting the tales of Cinderella and Belle and Aurora and Ariel, and ending each with "any they lived happily ever after," but wanting to say "until life creeps in the door and then you have to do the dishes and the laundry..." but I can't.
I suppose that B needs to grow up knowing that she can do it herself if she wants to. But I want her to also know that it's o.k. to have someone there to help you. Not necessarily to do it all for you, but to help. Maybe she'll be able to depend on her daddy for awhile, and she'll be able to lean on Papa when she needs to, but hopefully she'll find her own prince who will give her the things Papa or Daddy can't. I hope she's prepared for the day she realizes he's fallible, just like everyone else, and for the day she realizes that even in "happily ever after," someone has to wash the dishes.
Just to make sure, maybe I should add some "twisted" fairy tales for good measure? Maybe throw one in where evil triumphs over good, even if for just a few minutes? Maybe the prince takes a nap and forgets to go rescue the princess? maybe? ...