When I was about 10 or so, there were a few movies that solidified my belief that happy families lived in houses with stairs. There is a Tony Danza movie where his teenage daughter comes down the stairs in a dreamy sequence. Obviously this scene wouldn’t have been possible without stairs. Tony Danza couldn’t have looked at his daughter lovingly in this scene unless their home had stairs. Not to mention the house from Father of the Bride — obviously that family was awesome because they lived in a beautiful home with — you guessed it — stairs.

This sounds silly, of course, but looking at these perfect movie families, I really believed that a happy family lived in a home with beautiful stairs and two stories. In fact, really happy families lived in those homes that had stairs AND a hallway upstairs that linked multiple bedrooms and bathrooms. Sounds silly, right? But when you’re like me and you grow up in a small ranch with barely enough room for four people, a home with stairs and hallways and multiple bathrooms seemed like a panacea of sorts. You see, I grew up in a house where it was hard to have the perfect mom, dad, sister, and brother. How could you have a perfect family in a home with one bathroom? Where someone watching television is on the other side of your bedroom wall? Steve Martin’s character couldn’t live in my house growing up, it just wasn’t happening.

Whether I knew it or not, my long term goal was to have a home with stairs. Again, this sounds silly, but in some ways, having a home with stairs was going to allow me to build the perfect family just like the ones I had seen in those movies.

Well, I did build that home. I was in my twenties and had been pretty successful, enough to buy a one-story home and tear it down to the studs so I could make it the perfect two-story home — with, you guessed it, stairs. Shortly after we built our house, we had our first baby girl. And when the home was finished, we had my husband’s family over and my parents and sister over for Thanksgiving. We had a big home now, so we were automatically going to be the happy, perfect family that I had always wanted. But instead of it being the perfect family, it was beyond awkward. My husband’s parents had recently separated and my parents were the same — they weren’t Steve Martin and Diane Keaton. The house was everything I had always wanted, but the family was not. It was disappointing and I couldn’t put my finger on why it bothered me so much.

Then I realized that I had focused on the wrong thing. The house, the stairs, the things, and the dreams that others had envisioned for me wasn’t going to make me or my new family happy. Stairs weren’t going to make my husband and daughters instantly happy or perfect. My teenage dream didn’t fit my current life and the people who had always been in my cast of characters weren’t going to change just because I lived in a house with stairs and wanted them to change.

So we ditched the stairs. Yep, we sold the house we had custom built and moved to an apartment in the city (a post for another time). My kids will grow up in a home that does not have stairs. In a plot twist that I couldn’t have predicted, my girls won’t walk down the stairs in their prom dresses or gloriously slide down the stairs like the daughter in Father of the Bride. But we’re in a space that makes the family we have happy. We are silly and urban and so different from everything I thought my family would ever look like. We don’t have stairs, and we are perfectly happy.

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