Last week, a blog post went viral about why parents should stop trying to give their kids a magical childhood.
One of my friends shared it on her Facebook wall and yesterday a speaker at a sustainability conference even recommended it, saying that parents today spend too much time “on those things like Pinterest” and “working so hard to make their children’s live magical.”
“They’re just making their own lives harder,” she scoffed, “trying to make everything perfect.”
Then she said it’s because we mothers are addicted to stress.
Yes, it turns out we secretly like stress and so the quest to make childhood fun is some deep, psychological quest to make ourselves unhappy.
Or something like that. I had a really hard time understanding the logic in any of it.
These people seem to completely miss the point about what makes a childhood magical, and why some of us make an effort to try to do it.
A magical childhood isn’t about elaborate homemade cakes or catalog-worthy decorating ideas. It’s not about spending hours on Pinterest in some feverish quest to find enough fantastic things to do for our children.
It’s also not about doing things for and to our children.
It’s about doing things with our children. And giving them a life where they can make their own magic, too.
A magical childhood is filled with things like stories, hugs, picnics for breakfast in the back yard, knock-knock jokes in lunch boxes, lazy Saturdays, I love you notes in sock drawers and a dozen kisses “just because.”
A magical childhood is about silliness and songs and spontaneity and at least occasional opportunities to make a glorious mess in the mud.
A magical childhood is filled with memories of little things that are big things to children — fireflies, campfires, snowball fights, shoulder rides, time with people who make them feel special and snuggling in bed with a big pile of wonderful library books.
A magical childhood is about being there with our kids on a regular basis and taking the time to talk to them, listen to them, and do something that makes them smile.
It can involve crafts and activities. It can involve any number of things you can find on Pinterest (and for the record, why is it the new “in” thing to gang up on moms who craft or like Pinterest?). It can also involve just getting out in nature together or shooting hoops at the park or sitting in the back yard and talking after supper.
Childhood is hard. Adulthood is hard. Life in general is hard.
We all need a little magic.
Yes, kids can make their own magic. They are very capable of turning our living rooms into giant forts, creating elaborate fantasy worlds in the bushes in the backyard, and enthusiastically jumping like crazy in giant puddles.
But the thing that those misguided people don’t realize is that when we work to make childhood magical, we benefit too.
We strengthen our connection with our kids.
We show our kids that we love them like crazy.
We strengthen them for the hard times they will face in life.
We get to play and craft and splash and make messes again, too.
We add some joy to our own days.
We make parenthood magical too.
I have parented these children through toddlerhood (five times!), surgeries, cancer, the deaths of friends and family, tween angst, teen depression, bullies and more. Do you think I could have survived intact without working to make it magical for all of us?
There is a picture book that I read to my kids at bedtime sometimes that sums up a magical childhood to me. It’s called My Mama Had a Dancing Heart and it’s about a little girl and her mother through the seasons spending time together cutting out paper snowflakes, playing in fall leaves, dancing in the rain and so on.
The last line is, “My mama had a dancing heart, and she shared that heart with me.”
That’s the kind of mom I have always tried to be. And I frankly think it’s nonsense for anyone to suggest that’s a bad thing.
Those people can go on scoffing at those of us who strive to give our kids a magical childhood.
If that’s the worst thing they can say about me, I think I’m doing okay.