I sat in the darkened theater, watching “Cinderella” this weekend. It was the scene-no spoilers here, we all know the story-where Cinderella’s cruel stepfamily had left her behind, in torn rags, face streaked with tears. Then along comes her Fairy Godmother and everything changes. I saw tears dry with the swoosh of a magic wand and happiness and hope returned.
It struck me as I watched my own little girl’s face during this scene, that every little girl should have a Fairy Godmother. It would be really cool if I meant that literally, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Every little girl should have someone in their life besides their parents to make them feel special and listened to. I am her mom. I can make a lot of this kid’s dreams come true, but I am also the one to bring the consequences and dish out the responsibilities. A Fairy Godmother would have no such strings attached.
When I was little, both my parents worked. In about the third grade, I became a “latch key kid.” I got home from school and hung out watching soap operas until my folks came home. I read a lot of books too. The arrangement was fine, but I started to feel a little lonely. (Even at that age, I knew on some level that extroverts don’t do lonely well.) Through some miracle, my mom got me into a program in our area that paired up young adults with kids who need some extra attention. I was paired up with “Val”, a bleached blonde, 20-something waitress from the next town over. She was the “big sister” I was never going to have. She was beautiful, funny, glamorous, and took me out to restaurants. I loved tooling around in her VW Bug, which we nicknamed the Tin Can. She elevated me to a level of cool that my parents could never attain. Well, as cool as I could be at 11 years old. I loved my time with her.
Later, I saw another Fairy Godmother relationship develop between my mother-in-law and my niece. My mother-in-law was no stranger to the rules of spoiling children. Of course, she wrote the rules herself and took every opportunity to be there for her grandkids, but she took special care of her first one. Over the years, as life brought about its many changes, my niece knew that no matter what she needed to talk about, Nana always had ears for her. If that meant an overnight at the cottage in the summer or just a trip to the mall, Nana was up for it. She was my niece’s getaway, her safe place. I think that relationship helped her through some of the tough tween years.
So here’s what I think: It doesn’t matter who steps up to the plate for the Fairy Godmother role. It can be an aunt, a grandparent, a family friend, even an actual Godmother if you have one of those around—anyone who loves your kid as much as you do and is ready to spoil her, listen to her, and be her ever-loving-way-cooler-than-mom idol.
The job requirements include listening whether the moods are happy or sad, being ready for impromptu dance parties, being a trustworthy soul for wish sharing and secret keeping –a human diary, if you will. The perfect Fairy Godmother is one who holds back any judgment, but will be there to commiserate when Mom is driving her mad. With a wave of a magic wand, problems can be solved and self-esteem can be built. And of course, no FG is worth her salt unless she’s willing and able to take her princess shoe shopping. Because we all know that if you give a girl the right shoes, she can conquer the world.