Cinderella’s story is the classic formula for happiness. A beautiful young woman grows up amid neglect and abuse only to one day experience love and honor in the arms of a prince. This fairy tale and other such stories 1)transcend culture and language. All over the world there are variations of Cinderella and other popular fairy tales.
I cannot deny the number of times I’ve dreamt about the fairy-tale visions of life and the happily ever after—the glass slippers, the handsome guy, and the way we’d ride off on his 2)well-groomed3)steed—when lying in bed. Yet, at the same time, I can’t help but wonder about how we are educating our children. When we 4)tuck our daughter into bed at night, are we equating her to Cinderella by telling her fairy tales about the handsome, charming prince who will ride in on a big white horse and sweep her away to a distant castle, where he will wed her and worship her until eternity as they become the King and Queen of the faraway land? Sure, those stories reflect parents’ dreams for their babies, but have we given any thought to the unintentional damage those fairy tales may be doing to our daughters by creating potentially unrealistic expectations?
I speak from a position of authority regarding what I call “5)The Cinderella Syndrome,” which occurs when well-meaning parents set up an unrealistic expectation for their children, especially daughters—that they can depend on the Prince and be taken care of. My parents tried to do everything right: They worked hard, taught me right from wrong, 6)imparted strong moral values, and showered my brothers and me with love and all of the material possessions their income could provide. So, unfortunately, from my earliest memories, I always knew I was the “Princess.” My “loyal subjects” included not just my parents, but also my grandparents. All that attention does wonders for a young lady’s ego, but it also sets her up for a 7)rude awakening later in life when she ceases to be the Princess and becomes just another 8)belle at the ball, looking for a ride home from whatever pumpkin 9)coach happens past.
Ah, the fairy tale, the princess lifestyle, how sweet it all seemed. No 10)mortgage payments, no car bills, no real job, the ability to sleep forever (a favorite of mine). Those ladies had it all—in the end. In reality, though, that “handsome prince” we seem to be promising is in good company with Santa Claus and the 11)Easter Bunny—12)nary a one of them seems to exist. We end up settling for a 13)fixer-upper, which at times feels like a nightmare rather than a dream come true.
Come to think of it though, I should have been prepared for the 14)dicey stuff; we all should have been prepared. The pretty and good young woman only marries the prince after she has proven her ability to 15)withstand pain, humiliation, and other sorts of character building exercise. I should have realized that to achieve the fairytale ending, the princesses had to overcome extreme obstacles, fire breathing dragons, the poison apples, scrubbing the floors on hands and knees, 16)waiting on others as if you were the house maid; the seven 17)dwarves each had their own “unique” personality. It was all there. Why didn’t I see it? Maybe I blocked it out, who knows.
Perhaps these tales do actually teach us a lesson or two after all. Perhaps we are meant to learn that we are stronger than we realize and that we are meant to pick ourselves up in times of trial and to endure all with great self pride and 18)worth. For when we do overcome the obstacles, both big and small, it makes the victory even more magical.
Do your little girl a favor and remember “The Cinderella Syndrome” the next time you tuck her into bed. This time, don’t forget to mention the19)trolls and dragons along the forest path that leads to the castle. We cannot wait to be rescued. 20)Empowering your daughter to 21)stand on her own two feet is the best gift you can give to her.
And this is love, from Cinderella.