I recently saw a post from a mother saying that she is done trying to make her children’s childhood magical. Many of you posted links to it, moved by what the author was saying. As I read along, I found myself nodding along with you all. But then, in the back of my mind, I heard a little something. “But you like crafting with your children,” it said. “And you loved watching their faces light up at Disney World.” And I started feeling a little uncomfortable because I wanted to agree with her, I wanted to give it the virtual equivalent of a knowing nod of approval by linking to it…but it just didn’t sit well with me. I wrestled with my thoughts off and on all day. And, finally, I caught my thoughts long enough to take a look at them. Childhood is indeed happy and wonderful and even magical (for most kids) without the aid of any extra toys or games or crafts or events. But you know what isn’t always happy and wonderful and magical? Adulthood. And maybe it’s self-centered to admit this, but those fun crafts that we do and those “adventures” we go on? They aren’t always really just for the children. Sometimes they’re for me.
I do crafts with my children not to compete with the mom down the street. I do crafts with my children because I love to be there to watch their minds spin and whirl around the possibilities. I love to watch them try something new and see their eyes light up when what they’d dreamed up came true. I (sometimes) even love to watch them try things and fail. Maybe that’s awful of me. But I love to see how they respond when things don’t turn out like they thought they would. I love being there when they want to give up and I get to cheer them on. I love being there when they realize that they don’t actually need me, but that they can do it on their own. Those moments? Those moments are what I consider magical. And maybe they won’t remember it, but I will.
I take my children on adventures to musicals and plays and Disney World, not because I know they will remember it (though, honestly, I hope they will), but because I love to see them over the moon in the moment. I love the sparkle in their eyes and the grin on their faces when they meet their favorite character. I love the way her voice goes up an octave when she tells others about meeting Ariel or Sophia or Jake. And I love how all of his words try to come out at once when he tells about fighting Darth Maul. Maybe after a few years (or maybe even weeks) they won’t remember it, but I will. And I’ll be grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of the magic.
I do a lot of “magical” things with my children and I put a lot of effort into keeping things lively around our house. But at the same time, I completely agree with so much of what the author said. Kids need unstructured, unsupervised time where they can explore and play and learn without adults (and adult biases) getting in the way. (One of my favorite scientists, Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson, talks about this a lot). I agree that we shouldn’t plan all of the minutes. I agree that sometimes we (the parents) get so wrapped up in providing ample opportunities for our kids to learn and play that we forget to pencil in down time. We forget to give them time to do nothing. We don’t allow them time to sit and get bored! We’ve bought into the idea that if they get bored, they’ll get in trouble. And while that can certainly be true in some cases, often times the “trouble” isn’t all that bad and the pay off for what they’ve learned is well worth it in the long run.
Ultimately what I’m saying is that I think the author is right…we often put too much pressure on ourselves to make life magical and perfect for our kids…and it’s not necessary. They don’t need any of it. But if creating these moments brings you and your children joy? Then, by all means, go ahead. Grandparents have been doing that for decades! 🙂