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In Defense of Childhood Magic

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Last week, I read the article I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical. It was a bit hard not to read really, since it was shared on my Facebook feed more times than a joint at a high school party. The author more or less stated that it is not parents with their elaborate Pinterest crafts and extravagant vacations and tiresome efforts to create meaningful memories that make a childhood magical. She described childhood as being inherently magical and that we need to start reevaluating the intentions behind the grand production parents put on for their children’s early years. An excerpt:

“Parents do not make childhood magical. Abuse and gross neglect can mar it, of course, but for the average child, the magic is something inherent to the age. Seeing the world through innocent eyes is magical. Experiencing winter and playing in the snow as a 5-year-old is magical. Getting lost in your toys on the floor of your family room is magical. Collecting rocks and keeping them in your pockets is magical. Walking with a branch is magical. It is not our responsibility to manufacture contrived memories on a daily basis. When we make life a grand production, our children become audience members and their appetite for entertainment grows. Are we creating a generation of people who cannot find the beauty in the mundane? Do we want to teach our children that the magic of life is something that comes beautifully gift-wrapped — or that magic is something you discover on your own? Planning elaborate events, daily crafts, and expensive vacations isn’t harmful for children. But if the desire to do so comes from a place of pressure or even a belief that the aforementioned are a necessary part of one’s youth, it’s time to reevaluate. A childhood without Pinterest crafts can be magical. A childhood without a single vacation can be magical. The magic we speak of and so desperately want our children to taste isn’t of our creation, and therefore is not ours to dole out as we please. It is discovered in quiet moments by a brook or under the slide at the park, and in the innocent laughter of a life just beginning.”

 

She has a point. Yes. Of course she does. But I’m going to stand on my little make-believe soapbox just for a second and declare a little secret of mine.

I don’t put effort into making my kids’ childhood magical for them.

I do it for me.

I do it for me.

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I watched Enough Said over the weekend. Given the fact that Joel groaned his way through the first seventeen minutes of it and then promptly fell asleep meant that it was one of those movies. The slow kind. One where the story was buried within the changing relationships of the characters and not so much in, well, in anything else. “What is happening?” he’d cry. “What is even HAPPENING?” Still, it got me and by the end I needed tissues. I wasn’t just crying a little. It was ugly sobbing where you sniff back snot and feel a bit embarrassed to be so worked up by a couple of fictional characters and their make-believe story. But you see, the mother was saying goodbye to her daughter who was leaving for college — an airport scene just to pack some more emotional punch —  and it was acted so beautifully that I felt this mother’s heart wrenching as though it were mine.

In the right now days of my life, Billy stares at me like I am the only person in the room and I wonder if, as he grows, I will ever be this completely loved by him. And Ella. She wants me to put her to bed each and every night, always needing to nuzzle into the left side of my neck because for some reason it’s her favourite. But as two years have clocked their presence upon her life, I now stand back and watch as she recites the alphabet and doesn’t need my help down the slide and chooses her own outfit thank you very much.

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And so I sit here on my couch with my little laptop long after my kids have gone to bed and I know about that woman from the movie. And more than anything, I know the day I have to stand, like her, and watch my kids leave for their own lives is just around the corner for me because every single person, every single person – whether they know me or not – tells me so. Women behind cafe counters. Elderly men we pass on our daily walks. My mum. My friends’ mums. Women who read these posts. They all look upon me and my teeny children and they say the same thing, and so I listen because it must be the truth. It goes so fast, they say. The years just go by so fast.

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I know my kids will enjoy their childhood whether I make princess forts in the lounge room for them or not. I know they will find it magical whether I create elaborate treasure hunts for them complete with an X-marks-the-spot map or not . I know that childhood is already inherently magical and all my real job calls for is letting kids be kids. But I’m that crafty mum who stays up late getting Easter craft ideas off Pinterest. I’m that themed birthday mum who goes to a whole heap of effort to make a really fun and memorable day. I’m that mum who dresses my kids in cute outfits and takes them on scavenger hunts and road trips and playground visits on a daily basis.

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But I don’t do it so my children get more out of their childhood.

I do it so I do.

So I can make the most out the short time they are all mine. So I can suck the marrow from this time that is magical to me. So I can look back and say, Man, that was fun.

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My kids make me silly. They show me how to stop sweating the small stuff. They teach me to stop and look and notice. Broken sticks on the ground. Tiny flowers growing through cracks in the pavement. The calls of kookaburras. They allow me to become lost in the wonderful world of make-believe, and the sheer joy it is for me to not only join them at this level, but to create more of it for them is my greatest privilege. Perhaps, in this respect, I am making life a grand production, but I’m not so naive as to think that a childhood without my efforts would be any less magical.

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If we go to these efforts because we believe it will make a better childhood for them, then yes, I agree – we need to reevaluate our intentions. However, among the greatest goals of my parenting career – teaching my children how to develop resilience, how to deal with uncomfortable feelings, and how to find personal fulfillment  – there is no denying that I plan on having one hell of a good time in between. And by God – ain’t nobody gonna get in the way of me making a damn good scavenger hunt.

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10 Responses to “In Defense of Childhood Magic”

  1. knross

    glad there are others out there that feel the way I do… their childhood is also my parenthood, haha

    Reply
  2. Linda Robinson

    I can’t help telling you that I’m falling in love with your family as I read your posts, and with you as a mum. I am 67, never married, no children, but I’ve watched young families for years, and I’m always in awe of the parents like you and your husband. What a gift you are giving your children, (yes, I know you say you are doing it for yourself. That’s the love talking! That’s the gift.) The love expressed here is beautiful. Thank you for letting me lurk and listen in a bit.

    Reply
    • The Red Tent

      Hi Linda,
      Thank you for your lovely words. It’s a hard balancing act – to shower your kids with love but not have them growing up too spoilt. But I think we’re getting the hang of it! And also, you can lurk here as long as you want 🙂

      Reply
  3. zkmommy

    This post is inspiring. I haven’t read the post you referenced, but I am entirely on your side. There is nothing wrong with giving your kids a little magic. And yes, it is good for us too. There is nothing I love more than watching my son throw his head back and laugh while having fun on a crazy adventure. Or seeing my daughter discover something new and clap her hands in excitement. Parenthood is magical, and I will do everything I can to encourage and capture that magic.

    Reply
  4. Rhonda

    Good on you Rachel!
    Steven still remembers the activities we did together. My favourite was the Teddy Bears Picnic. Yes I also like you , loved it just as much! Especially the look of happiness on his face.

    Reply

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