My 10-year-old girl is a sucker for a good Barbie movie. I am grateful for that. It will all change soon enough. For now I am fine with letting her believe in fairy tales and happily ever after.
When it is time though, I will tell her the truth.
Which is that nothing is perfect, despite appearances. Successful relationships will always require consistent attention and an unflappable commitment to each other. And that you must love yourself before you can love another.
When the thought of a romantic encounter becomes a curiosity versus what it is now (which is something between shock and "ew") we will talk about what to look for, like finding someone to grow with, someone who supports her path to her highest self. Someone capable of seeing the light within. Someone who encourages her to soar.
I know that she is bound to stumble, likely to get her heart broken by both girlfriends and boyfriends. And when the tears come I will remind her how lovable and worthy she is.
We have worked diligently to plant seeds in her young, impressionable mind about how the body comes in all shapes and sizes and colors. That differences between us are misperceptions because on the inside we are all one and the same. How kindness, above all, is an important quality in a person and is demonstrated by how an individual treats others. That genuine happiness is beauty personified and no one can take that from you.
I will tell her that those fairytales that end at the wedding with the couple waving and the parting words, "and they lived happily ever after..." are leaving you off at the beginning of the journey, not merely the end of a movie. Life is messy and complicated and full of joy and challenge and heartaches. And so is a marriage. Vows that include "for better and for worse" are literally preparing you for reality. It does not come easy and it is not automatically successful due to a magic coupling the universe created for you. Your own happiness should not rely on another; it must already be within. There is no one person who will "complete" you. You are already complete. And finding someone else who is also already complete is really important, for you cannot fix each other. Heal each other, yes. Change another? No.
She has been learning this all along, I know. We have been demonstrating it to her, my husband and I. About what commitment means and how even when we don't see eye to eye or we get mad at each other, we can work it out. She knows the power of "I'm sorry" and "I was wrong."
My daughter will learn, both through our actions and her own experiences, that happy is a skill, a choice and a mindset. That to be happy "ever after" is not a given, nor even a constant in a marriage. The truth is "happily ever after" most often makes a cyclical appearance, but that love can be more wonderful than any fairytale she could imagine. And that it grows even better with age.