Your Prince Charming turned out to be something of a fraud…or at least a disappointment. He wasn’t all you expected him to be, and the story ended not in the Magic Kingdom or the land of Happily Ever After, but in divorce court.
Now you’re trying to save your daughter from the same fate.
Sound like a fiction plot? And a familiar one at that? It is. It’s the premise of Miracle on 34th Street, the perennial Christmas season favorite about a divorcée who doesn’t want her daughter to grow up believing in Prince Charming…or Santa Claus. Or any of that other fairy tale stuff. That way she won’t get hurt when reality hits her in the face.
In the movie, Santa turns out to be real, the mother gets a second chance at happiness with a new love, and the little girl learns that it’s not so bad to hold on to her beliefs. But before the final scene, the mom does a powerful number on her daughter’s head about Not Believing.
Are you guilty of the same thing? I hope not.
No Cinderella Story
Yes, fairy tales are just that: tales, and not reality. Yes, “Happily ever after” is, to some extent, an illusion. There are always bumps in the road, even in the happiest of marriages (or non-marital relationships). But happiness does exist. And if a marriage has good “shock absorbers,” it can withstand the bumps in the road. Not every marriage ends in divorce or discord. Plenty of couples lead happy, satisfying lives. And imbuing your daughter (or son) with a disbelief in happy endings—real-life or fictional—is doing her a great disservice.
Yet plenty of embittered divorcées do exactly what the mother in the movie did.
The word from here is: Don’t. Don’t destroy her childhood illusions. She’ll learn the realities of life on her own as she grows up. Actually, she’s learning them already. She’s seen her mom and dad get divorced—that’s an object lesson enough in itself. She has learned—at an early age—that relationships don’t always have happy-ever-after endings. And as she grows older and begins dating, she’ll be spurned by one boy and dumped by another, disappointed in more than one relationship by guys with wandering eyes or other serious flaws.
You don’t have to ruin her illusions now.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you fill her head totally with sugarplums, or that you depict marriage as a la-la-land where everything goes smoothly, nothing goes wrong, and love conquers all. But neither do you have to destroy all her hopes. Perhaps Prince Charming doesn’t exist, but somewhere out there in her future is a perfectly nice young man with good values, a compatible personality, winning ways, and the promise that he might make a good husband for her…if she can let go of her negativity and skepticism.
She’ll have garnered enough of that on her own. Don’t you be the one to totally ruin her beliefs.
A well-balanced head
A healthy dose of skepticism is…well, healthy. But mind, I said a “healthy dose” of it. I didn’t say a head filled with it. And, as a child of divorce, she’s had enough skepticism hand-fed to her already by life. You don’t need to pile it on.
So, while you don’t have to foster unrealistic expectations about real life, you also don’t have to destroy all her illusions. Don’t make mock of marriage. Don’t refuse to read her any fairytales or tell her any happily-ever-after stories. Don’t tell her she can’t count on men in this world. Don’t start her out into the world with a negative mindset. Cautious, yes. Independent, certainly. But don’t take away her belief in happiness…or love.
Thankfully both of these precious commodities still exist. And your daughter has as much right to believe in them as she does to believe now in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.
Don’t ruin all her illusion.