“I am Elsa the baby mermaid FOREVER, ok?”
“Ok, and I am Sleeping Beauty the mermaid, ok?
New imaginations of princesses, mermaids and babies such as this are heard on a daily basis around the Boyer household, always in terms of “forever”. Our girls are three-and-a-half and five years old, respectively, which is prime time for princess mode. And even though I’m regularly relegated to the role of villain, (“Mommy, pretend you are nice Ursula forever, ok?”), I have to say, I don’t mind. I have had a certain affinity toward fairy tales since I was a small kid, and it’s fun to pass it along. When they’re older, I’ll enjoy reading the original (but gruesome) Grimm’s fairy tales together and discussing the place of such stories in culture back then. As for now, I think there are plenty of positive things to take from the Disney renditions–thin-waisted, top-heavy female figures aside.
As we re-watch a lot of the old movies, I pick up on things that I never did before, positive things like the way Belle stands up to both Gaston and the Beast, Jasmine’s desire for freedom over wealth and status, Cinderella’s gentleness, and Mulan’s bravery, not to mention Rapunzel’s homeschool awesomeness. These movies are pint-sized Broadway shows for children, introducing them to story through song and getting these kids singing from an early age. I can actually pinpoint the moment where I was inspired to ask for voice lessons after becoming starstruck with a certain duet from Aladdin (which I have fond memories of belting out in the woods back behind the sawmill shed). That love for singing has served me well over the years. And sure, there’s plenty to discard, but I figure we’ll take the good and sift through the rest as we go. That’s the parent’s job, after all, right?
I began to think very carefully about this stance after I watched a few seasons of The Bachelor. Let me
justify myself back up for a minute here. I had a few friends who got into watching The Bachelor, and the premise of the show intrigued me (how does a guy expect to find real, lasting love by dating a large pool of women all at once? [Spoiler alert: he doesn’t]), so I decided that I would give it a few seasons and see what the fuss was about. I am happy to report that I have since quit watching any and all Bachelor related shows and attend weekly support groups to help me stay strong.
There were plenty of shocking things about the show, but honestly, one of the more shocking things about it was the term “happily ever after” and how it was used across the board–spanning multiple seasons–by mostly bachelorettes as a kind of end goal, as though it were something that were attainable in one
foul romantic swoop. Land the guy and live happily ever after. It may well have been its motto, only we all know it is anything but accurate in the aftermath of the show. The use of fairy tale language was resplendent all throughout the show, and it honestly gave me cause to think long and hard about whether or not we are setting our girls up for disastrous relationships and unrealistic expectations of love.
Because the honest truth is that there is no scenario that can end with riding off into the sunset. Is this a blinding flash of the obvious? It should be. No matter how romantic the beginnings, life has a way of finding you. Sickness, depression, and let’s see, SIN, these are all part of the reality in which we live. In fact, perhaps this would be a more realistic picture of an ending to those fairy tales.
Not too long ago, I happened to stumble upon a photo series done by Jaime Moore, who decided to photograph her daughter for her 5th birthday posing as five different real-life heroines throughout history, such as Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, and Coco Chanel. She writes,
My daughter wasn’t born into royalty, but she was born into a country where she can now vote, become a doctor, a pilot, an astronaut, or even President if she wants and that’s what REALLY matters…..so let’s set aside the Barbie Dolls and the Disney Princesses for just a moment, and let’s show our girls the REAL women they can be.
This blog post made me want to stand up and cheer. It made me want to find childrens books about real life heroines in the library (and when I couldn’t find them, to write them!), because these are women who had the persistence, discipline and insight to change their world without the use of magic, a penny waist, or the pipes of Adele Dazeem… I mean Idina Menzel.
The thing is, I do believe that “happily ever after” is attainable, but not without a lot of hard work and tears and forgiveness and not giving up on each other and, above all, seeking Christ hand-in-hand together. Earlier this year, I wanted to give my kitchen floor its annual deep clean, so I filled a tub with soapy water, pulled out the scrub brush, rolled up my sleeves and got to work. As I put some elbow grease into that floor, it occurred to me that the situation was similar to Cinderella’s, with one major exception, this was my happily ever after. My happy ending includes dirty floors and never-ending laundry, toothpaste-splattered mirrors (that don’t have a genie telling me I’m the fairest in the land), and perpetual cracker crumbs on the floor of our
magical horse-drawn pumpkin carriage minivan. I’m the queen of this royally messy house. As much as this revelation makes me want to hire a maid service, I know in the deepest part of me that this is the way it is meant to be–that these simple tasks are daily anchors into a life of humility. There has been no greater kiln in my life than the task of daily living, being faithful in these small things. For a dreamer and a lover of all things impossibly magical and imaginative, those cracker crumbs keep me grounded in the knowledge that God is here, right here in this mess.
I still love to dream. I am filled with dreams and hope about our future, about the calling on my life, about adventures with my husband, and about the regal women my little princesses will someday become. I think it’s healthy and good, but dreams are tricky things. They have the possibility to propel us on to accomplish great things. They can also become elusive idols that swallow us alive. Dreams without teeth can cause depression. I have found that a lot of young Americans have a shallow understanding of how to accomplish our goals, and I include myself in that category. We would much prefer a fairy godmother who grants us a wish in the blink of an eye than to put in years of drudge work with little-to-no results before we come close to our goals. These are the cracker crumbs of life.
Our illustrious Editor recently included a video by Ira Glass in his post about the gap between our desire to be good at something and our actual abilities. It is worth repeating and can be viewed here.
In closing, I leave you with one foot firmly planted in the world of the impossible and the other in the reverence of this horribly beautiful messy world and the knowledge that God is with us. If that isn’t impossibly possible, I don’t know what is. Hallelujah.
Oh, and also, here’s a remake of an old Disney classic tune by Lana Del Rey, an artist who (to my great surprise) pretty much nailed it.