Friday, January 30, 2009

Fairy Tale Ordeal

Anyone who's talked to me about little girls finds out pretty quick I'm a little anti-princess. That's a little odd when you consider I was raised on Disney classics and can sing almost word-for-word every song from Snow White to Pocahontas. One of the books I read recently had a discussion between two female characters - one who wanted to be married and have babies at 18 and the other who was OK to not get married until she was 30 and hadn't even thought about children. It made me stop and look at our little Katie Bug and wonder about all the messages she will hear throughout her life telling her what her life should be about. This is where my beef with fairy tales comes in. How do I teach her to believe in true love and happily ever after, but keep her grounded in gospel principles, a little reality, and help her to be strong. Let me explain. So many little girls that I see love all of the Disney princess paraphernalia. But if you look at each story; Sleeping Beauty and Ariel were both just 16 when they met prince charming. How did they win their prince over? Good looks and a pretty voice. Cinderella fell in love after one dance. Jasmine did get to experience a little more problem solving with Aladdin. Belle actually had a relationship develop. Mulan is my favorite because she saves China. I think each one of these have really good qualities in them, but so often what these fairy tales are sold as now is cheap love. You just have to meet the person of your dreams and happiness magically appears. What matters is that you have a pretty princess dress and that your future mate happens to be a prince with some serious financial hook-ups. Yet, on the reverse side of what the world now offers, we have Destiny's Child teaching girls how to be "Independent Women." From that perspective relationships should always be 50/50, but truth be told you don't need a man anyway because you can take care of yourself. I don't stand with either of these schools of thought, but somewhere in the middle. My little girl will be constantly navigating herself through this world that would love to pull her down one extreme road or the other. I can't make her into someone she's not and she will have to make many decisions that will shape her life and personality, but I do know there are certain things I want her to know.

1. The purpose of this life isn't to get everything we want or to become the toughest thing out there. The purpose of this life is to be tested. Will you choose to believe in God? In truth? In a Savior? Will you choose to put others before yourself? If you can make the right choices there, everything else will fall into place.

2. You will have to be strong to survive in this world, but that doesn't mean you have to do it alone. We have the families, friends, and neighbors we do because we need each other, we need human contact to learn, grow, love, and feel loved. All of the dresses, castles (aka clothes, cars, dates, gadgets, toys, and trips) will mean nothing in the long run if you never learn how to truly love other people more than these things.

3. Happily Ever After never just happens. It is a choice by two people to live selflessly. Marriage becomes hard the minute one or both become selfish. It is so beautiful, fun, fulfilling, and peaceful when you choose to put the other person first.

4. When you find someone you want to marry, I hope you truly love him more than the idea of him. I mean that you want to be with him more than you want a white dress, more than you want pictures to show friends, more than you just want someone to be there. I hope it's because you truly have found a best friend who you'd never want to live without and who can hold your hair out of your face when you're puking your guts out when you are pregnant.

5. I hope you never spend weeks, months, or years convincing yourself that you have to be something you're not for love, or making excuses for someones bad behavior and believing if you love him enough you will change him (pornography, gambling, drinking, manipulative behavior, laziness - the man you want will be strong enough to put you over these things).

6. Never believe you or anyone else has an expiration date. Don't feel you have to rush into anything because you're worried it will never happen if you don't do it now. Deciding who you want to be with needs to be based on love, not fear of being alone forever.

7. Here's my favorite lesson from Mulan. There will be times you feel like you don't fit in anywhere - especially the norm. Go with your heart and do what you feel good about, not what society dictates. You may end up saving China, simply because you were there and not afraid to do something when everyone says you can't.

8. Look for ways to build others up, not compete with them. This life is not a princess competition. If you spend more time helping other girls feel important, beautiful, and loved and less time comparing yourself to them (which always ends up being your weakest point to their strongest so it's not very realistic anyway) you will feel confident, at peace, and happy. The minute you start to compete you lose because there will always be someone else to beat. Life is not a beauty pageant!

9. Take care of your body, health, and physical appearance, but don't let it become the core of your existence. You want to be loved for your soul, not your hair or make-up or dress size. Again, it's good to be healthy, clean, and to look nice, but you don't want to feel like your eyes, nose, lips, hips, teeth, or anything else is just flawed. God gave you a beautiful body uniquely fitted to you. Your soul will radiate beauty if you seek to be a beautiful person instead of placing your entire worth on your body.

10. Understand that sometimes someone may appear to be prince charming and he may instead break your heart over and over. You must know that you are worth loving, worthy of someone who would rather die than hurt you, and to not give up that dream on those darkest of nights when you feel so alone and heartbroken. Let your heart breaker go and love yourself enough to find a true love.

I had many more thoughts about this as I walked Pele this morning in the beautiful frost-covered Spokane streets. But it's late now and I don't know if anyone has finished this because I think it's a little scattered. I will have to continually evaluate throughout our little girl's life if Jeremy and I are doing our best to teach our girl about marriage and families through our words and deeds because I know everything out there in the world will sure confuse things at times. Not that we're perfect, but your own family so often affects your view of those things. I'm sure I'll have more to say on this subject down the road.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Jami! Wow! I absolutely loved this. Your baby is a very lucky little girl. She will turn out just fine with you as her Mom. I have some friends that I think would really benefit from reading this right now. I hope you don't mind if I link to this post.

It blows my mind how many women fall into this trap. Even (and especially, I think) women in the Church. Thank you for saying it and for saying it well. I love being on the side of strong, strong women like yourself.