Tag Archives: deep thoughts

Is It a Bad Thing to Want to Give Our Kids a Magical Childhood?

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.  🙂






Filed under the big stuff

Childhood Doesn’t Wait

Here’s a sweet poem with some important reminders for all of us…

Childhood Doesn’t Wait
(Author Unknown)

I was sitting on a bench
while in a nearby mall,
When I noticed a young mother
with two children who were small.

The youngest one was whining,
“Pick me up,” I heard him beg
but the mother’s face grew angry
as the child clung to her leg.

“Don’t hang on to me,” she shouted
as she pushed his hands away,
I wish I’d had the courage
to go up to her and say…

“The time will come too quickly
when those little arms that tug,
Won’t ask for you to hold them
or won’t freely give a hug.

“The day will sneak up subtly
just as it did with me,
When you can’t recall the last time
that your child sat on your knee.

“Like those sacred, pre-dawn feedings
when we cherished time alone
Our babies grow and leave behind
those special times we’ve known.

“So when your child comes to you
with a book that you can share,
Or asks that you would tuck him in
and help him say his prayer…

“When he comes to sit and chat
or would like to take a walk,
Before you answer that you can’t
`cause there’s no time to talk”
Remember what all parents learn
so many times too late,
That years go by too quickly
and that childhood doesn’t wait.

“Take every opportunity,
if one should slip away
Reach hard to get it back again,
don’t wait another day.”
I watched that mother walk away
her children followed near,
I hope she’ll pick them up
before her chances disappear.


Filed under quotes

On Finding Balance and Letting Things Go

Letting small children plant 60 marigolds will test your limits of perfectionism and impatience!

Magical Mama Esther wrote recently and asked:

I would love to see you comment on being able to let things go. I regularly read your blog because I want more magic in our home. But I just can’t let the cleaning/organizing off of the front burner. I want my children to remember a fun, relaxed home, but I am afraid that they will mainly remember Mom always wanting the house to be clean. Any suggestions?

Good question!

I’m not sure I’m the one to ask, as I tend to have the opposite problem.  I am too good at letting the housework go while having fun!  🙂 

Whether you’re trying to get more done, let more go, or otherwise change how you’re spending your time at home, here’s some things that can help:

  1. Make lists.  Lists keep me on track for getting writing done, keeping up with housework, doing laundry, prepping meals and so on, but they also keep me on track with kid things.  My lists almost always have entries like “One-on-one with Jack” and “Read to Alex.”  Those items are just as important (or more so!) and putting them in writing helps us  remember that.
  2. Start a record.  When you know you’re recording the day-to-day things, it makes you a little more accountable.  Find a way to start noting the special things you do in the day (or whatever else you’re working on improving).  You can start blogging magical moments, check in on a parenting list, jot things down in a journal or even resolve to write at least one happy family memory on a daily calendar each day.  Knowing that you’ll be checking in is a great reminder to fit that special time in.
  3. Talk to yourself as if you’ve already changed.  I use this little trick on myself to get myself doing more housework sometimes.  I’ll purposely repeat things in my head that I want to be true, such as “I just can’t pass a mess without cleaning it right away” or “When I’m antsy I always have to tidy something.”  Neither of these are typically true in the least for me, but when I start to hear them in my head I do start to live by them!  Say the things you want to be true often enough, and they will become a part of how you are.  If you want to make more magical moments with your kids, some good thoughts to insert might be ones like, “Today’s too nice of a day to spend inside cleaning!” and “I can’t wait to do some silly crafts with the kids!”.
  4. Pretend your someday self is watching.  Will you one day regret spending so much time on housework and missing out on those magical moments with the kids?  Then get in the habit of seeing scenes from that far-from-now self who’d be beating you up for missing your chances.  This is also a good way to get past annoyances a lot of the time.  I often look at the present as if I’m looking back on it and see how I’d react, and the answer is laughter, patience or empathy far more often than it’s anger if I look at it with that distance.  Some day, this moment will be a memory.  What kind of a memory would you like it to be?  What lesson will it have taught you or your children?
  5. Practice.  Whether it’s being silly, tidying up or taking time to make things special, the more you do it the more naturally it comes.  Never mind the times you didn’t do what you wished you had — every time you do is something to celebrate.  And then do it again.

One of the wonderful things about parenting is that we get so many thousands of chances to do it right every day.  Every minute is a new minute where we could do something fun, silly, messy, loving or special.  Don’t focus on what’s missing, just fill the next minute with something wonderful.

What about you?  If you have tricks to help you keep up with all that you want to, please add them in the comments!


Filed under the little stuff

The Never-Ending Parent

You may have noticed that Monday came and went without a list of ways to make the day magical this week. 

It’s been one of those weeks.

You’re on your own!  😉

But in the meantime, I came across this tidbit that I wrote in the Magical Childhood newsletter years ago.  It was written half to a friend who was stressed out as a mom and half as a reminder to myself.

It helps me keep things in perspective.

The Never-Ending Parent

Sometimes it’s hard to be a good parent.
Sometimes you wonder why you’re not like others
Who make themselves the priority, who are stern and unyielding
Or who let everybody else take care of their kids.
Sometimes you envy them their time, their space,
Their full night’s sleep.

Sometimes you start doubting yourself and wondering
If you really are just crazy, being this kind of parent
In this kind of world.

Your house is noisy and full of chaos
And you wonder if it will last forever.

I have a secret.  If you keep this up….
It will.

Think of it.

When you get up at 3 a.m. because your baby cries, think of the time
When he’s a teenager and calls at 3 a.m. to say he needs a ride
Instead of getting in the car with his drunk friends
Because he knows he can be honest with you and that he can count on you.

When you take the time to explain “why” for the hundredth time today
Wondering if you will ever get a moment’s peace and quiet,
Think of the days when your daughter is grown and on her own
And will still call because she loves your conversations.

When you discount all the well-meaning people who tell you to let your baby cry
And you go to him, hold him, comfort him anyway
Think ahead to the times when he’ll be a strong, secure, independent kid
And those people say “I don’t know how you were blessed with such an easy child.”

When you nurse your daughter and hold her close
Spoiling her with all that love and care, think of the time
When you’ll overhear her tell a friend
“My mom and I have always been so close.”

When the house is full of noise, mess and chaos
Think of the days when the kids are grown, and it will start all over
With your grandchildren, because your family is so bonded
That everybody still gathers at your loving home.

No, if you keep this up it will never change.
Your children will be in your life forever.
And honey, you’ll love the noise.

~ Alicia Bayer

Happy Thursday!  I’ll be back with some fun soon!


Filed under the big stuff

The Silent Treatment

The view from my desk through the snow yesterday

I lost my voice today.

I’ve been fighting a cold and getting sicker and sicker, until this morning when I woke without the ability to speak at all.

I went through the day scribbling notes, gesturing and occasionally squeaking and whispering out a few words.

The funny thing is, it was kind of nice at times.  And I’m pretty sure I was a better mother for it.

  • When I went to wake up Anna, I couldn’t holler from the doorway so I jostled her arm and did the “I love you” sign when she opened her eyes.
  • When I needed Jack to do something, I went over to him, touched his shoulders to get his attention, got down to his level  and very quietly whispered what I wanted.
  • When Alex and I rested in the bath together, both of us feeling pretty miserable, I just wordlessly smiled at him and kissed his cheek.  He wordlessly smiled back.

Don’t let that magical part fool you.

With four children, I can be a loud mother!

I am frequently hollering “Anna, be nice to your brother!” from the next room, “Jack, please set the table for dinner!” up the stairs and “Alex, stop throwing things off the bunk bed!” from the doorway.

Today was a nice change from that.

There is something to be said for having to get very close and speak very softly.

Of course, it makes it really hard to answer the phone when that important phone call comes!

My voice is coming back already and it should be fine tomorrow.

Just the same, I think I’ll give it a rest.  🙂


Filed under the little stuff

Big Brother, Little Brother

Of all wild beasts, the most difficult to manage.
– Plato , on Boys

My son Jack has a black eye this week, courtesy of his little brother.

I’d like to say that Alex didn’t mean to do it, but he did.

Alex (3) was mad and threw his new remote control truck at Jack (7) and hit him smack under the eye.

Jack wailed, but didn’t retaliate.  No matter how his little brother torments him, it’s not his way to ever purposely hurt Alex back.

(Although perhaps in a bit of karma, Alex tripped while jumping on our bed today and fell right onto a metal bed rail and got his own shiner of sorts.)

Such is the life with boys.

My girls were active, loud, chaotic and crazy-making, but nothing like these boys.

They hurl themselves through life and through our small house.

They shriek.

They chase.

They make enough noise to raise the dead.

At dinner time, they sit side by side and crack each other up all during dinner.

They are loud, silly, messy and totally unacceptable dinner companions to their older sisters (and often to their parents).

When we separate them, though, they sob as if they’re being sent to opposite sides of the earth.  Please, they beg, let us be together!

Last week, we stayed at a hotel to celebrate my birthday and spent a lot of time in the pool.

The older kids took turns carrying Alex around and holding out their arms for him to leap into.  I loved the sight of how they all took care of him.

But it especially made me smile to see my “baby” Jack carrying Alex around, looking after him so carefully.

These boys make me crazy on an hourly basis.

They break things.

They mess up things.

They jump and shout and leap and swordfight and smash and crash and bash.

But if you ask Alex who his best friend is, he’ll tell you, “My brother Jack.”

At the end of the day, one of the best gifts I could possibly give my boys is that kind of love and connection with each other.

Brotherhood in the best sense.

Of course, one of the best gifts they could give me would be a wee bit less bashing.  😉

A boy is a magical creature–you can lock him out of your workshop, but you can’t lock him out of your heart.
– Allan Beck


Filed under the big stuff

An Army of Goodness

I was horrified today to learn about a 7 year-old terminally ill girl who was being bullied by her grown neighbor. The news videos were heartbreaking — a woman and her husband posted photoshopped pictures of the girl’s dead mother in the arms of the Grim Reaper and the child with a skull and crossbones over her.

I was in tears for this beautiful child and her grief-stricken family, and nauseated at the behavior of these psychopaths.

And then I found pages of what has  happened in the days following the news reports.

People around the country have been donating to the family and to a fund set up to give her a fantasy shopping spree at a local toy store.  Today, she was picked up by limo to pick out any toys she likes and she will deliver thousands of dollars worth of other toys to children at a local hospital.

Recently, a couple of friends told me that I should not pay attention to upsetting stories and tragedies around the world. They said I’d just depress myself and there were too many suffering people in the world to be able to do any good.

I beg to differ.

Years ago, I found out about an evil couple who were telling parents to beat their children into submission with tree limbs and plumbing line, starting in infancy.  I was sickened and haunted by what I read, and I spoke up about it loudly.

Soon after, a salon.com writer published an article about the teachings.  The article got thousands of views and raised awareness.

Last year, a child was killed by parents who followed this horrific advice, and I wrote a series of articles about it and once again spoke up often and loudly.  Prosecutors and police had found the salon.com article online and tied the couple to those teachings (though no charges can be filed against the authors).  News reports wrote about the books and Facebook groups formed about better ways to discipline children.

It was only then that a friend of mine told me that she’d forwarded one of my early emails to a friend of hers who worked at salon.com, which led to that first article.  I was one small piece in an ever-growing movement to balance out the bad with good.

We make ripples that go out into the world every day of our lives — with our parenting, with our relationships, with our actions and with our words. Those ripples can go much farther than we ever realize.

I continue to speak out about evil and unfairness, and I am not a depressed person.

Actually, I am one of the happiest people I know.

It’s true I often cry for the grieving mothers, abused children and other victims of suffering that are so plentiful in this world.  There’s some pain that nothing I do can take away.  Most of it, actually.

But there’s a lot of good that I can do just by acknowledging it, talking about it and doing my own small deeds to balance it out.

And it’s a really wonderful feeling to know that when people do let the world know about the bad stuff out there, there is generally an army of goodness that reacts.

I like being in that army of goodness. It’s pretty nice company.


“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” ~Edmund Burke

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. ~Margaret Mead



Filed under the big stuff

The Puddle Stomping Personality Test

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a store full of very breakable objects with a small boy.

Being a sensible sort, I left my friends and older kids to continue browsing and took my small boy outside.

We looked for things to do while the others smelled every scented candle in Lincoln, Nebraska.  This included running games…

thinking games…

and eventually led to…


Now, I knew puddle stomping would not be a particularly good idea on that particular day.

It was COLD out.  They were big puddles.  We didn’t have extra shoes, socks or pants.  Alex would get cold.

And he’d also get happy.

Life is short.

I let him stomp.

And stomp.

And stomp.

While Alex stomped, I noticed the reactions of people passing by.  There were three types:

1.  Those who were delighted at the sight and broke into big grins.

2.  Those who looked horrified, no doubt thinking how cold and wet he was going to be soon or what a mess he was making of himself.

3.  Those who were so busy they didn’t notice at all.

It was very interesting watching their faces!  Many of the second group looked around to spot me, no doubt thinking that I must not have noticed what he was up to.  I swear they wanted to yell at him themselves!

I loved watching the first group, and just felt a little sorry for the last group.  But mostly I just loved watching Alex in his absolute delight.

And I also knew that he was going to be wet and cold when he was finished, and we had a lot left to do in the day and no warm clothes.

Some parents would take this opportunity to teach him about “natural consequences” and let him be wet and cold and miserable for the rest of the day.  I’m not that sort of parent.  I didn’t want his fun to be at a price learned at the tender age of three about the steep price of having fun, mister.

The nice thing about outdoor malls is that there are lots of stores!  And while we get most of our clothes from thrift stores and garage sales, I know my way around a Gap well enough to know that there’s almost always something on clearance.

So when our friends were finished, we made a quick stop for a rather darling, warm pair of striped pants at the unbeatable price of $2.99 and he was nearly good as new.

(Okay, he went bare footed for a while and I carried his shoes.  Shoes were a lot more than 2.99!)

I love those pants now.  They remind me of a joyful afternoon and the sort of mama I strive to be.  And the sort of passer-by.  🙂


Filed under happy stuff

The Payoff

It’s not always easy to be a parent, and it’s really not always easy to try to be a good one…

  • At 3 a.m. when you have finally gotten to sleep and your child comes and wakes you because she’s had a nightmare (for the fifth time this week)…
  • When your four year-old has a meltdown at the state capitol and you have legislators from a dozen states giving you the skunk eye as you patiently sit and discuss the unfairness of life on the steps…
  • As your child goes through some stage that everybody has advice about and you patiently wait even longer for it to pass, having faith (almost completely) that eventually she’ll be able to pee alone or talk to strangers or sleep in her own room or whatever it is that is her personal quirk…

It’s super easy to be a great parent during the light of day when you’re well rested, everything is going perfectly and your kids are being fabulous.  That’s cake.

But the tough days and nights are where the payoff lies.

Those are the times when we don’t know if we really have it in us, but somehow we do, and later they come back to make it all worthwhile.

I am getting to that phase in life where I am gaining wisdom and wrinkles.  I’ve made it through phases that I thought would never end, to the point where now I almost forget that once they made me crazy.

I am lucky enough to still have little children but also lucky enough to have big ones.  Every day I see the payoff… the fears that have been resolved, the needs that have been filled and gone away, the phases that ran their course and the happy, healthy kids who have remained.

It’s sometimes bittersweet for me to have my little girls growing up so fast.  I’m not all together ready to be done with fairy wings and princess gowns.  Like it or not, I have preteens and am inches away from a full-fledged teenager.

But I am loving more and more the adventure of having big kids.

My daughters and I are taking part in some college courses given by international students at a local college.  Victoria and I are learning German, while Anna, Victoria and I are all learning Spanish.

There is something magical about sitting in a college class with my daughters on either side of me.

My once-shy Annalee, who hid behind my skirts when she was two, now is the first to answer some questions about how to conjugate a verb in a college Spanish class.

And Victoria, who changes on a minute by minute basis, has mostly decided that I am awfully fabulous to be around and wants me to come with her everywhere.  (Okay, sometimes I’m still absolutely terrible, but I’m happy to at least mostly rock!)

So I’m here to say hang in there… to those of you in the early years that try so hard to exhaust you, to those of you who have been plugging away with your good mama hats on and wonder if it matters at all, to those of you being told by all sides advice that goes against your heart… hang in there.

I’m not naive enough to think that the hard days are behind me.  Boy oh boy do I have a lot of crazy-making mama moments in store for me, I know.  But it is so nice to have come through enough to realize that I seem to be at least going in the right direction.

Here’s to the hard work of parenting, and to the little people we’ve created who are worth it.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
~Frederick Douglass

Nothing you do for a child is ever wasted.
~Garrison Keillor


Filed under the big stuff

It’s Hard Work, This Mothering Business

I’ve been feeling rather raw lately.  My “good mama” hat has felt knocked from my head a few too many times and I’ve been filled with self doubt.

Several hundred times per day, three-year-old Alex tells me “Me MAD at you, Mama!”.

Seven-year-old Jack goes back and forth between being sweetly crazy about me to shouting that he hates me.

Ten-year-old Annalee has taken several nights this week to inform me of how unfair her life is, that I don’t spend enough time with her and that I’m a promise breaker and a liar.

And twelve-year-old Victoria… well, she reads this blog and gets annoyed if I talk about her, so let’s just say I do not feel like her favorite person in the universe.

I’m tired.

I’ve spent 12+ years singing lullabies, doing crafts, reading stories, playing games, taking walks, cuddling and doing everything in my power to make some pretty marvelous childhoods for these four little blessings.  And I know I’ve done well and they’re good kids and that they’re happy even when they’re yelling at me or acting petulant.

But this week… this week I’m feeling weary.

Last night, Jack fell asleep on the couch.  I covered him with a blanket and went and found a ball point pen, then wrote “Mama loves you!” on his palm.  This morning, he marched into my room and angrily showed me his hand.  “Look what someone wrote on me while I was sleeping!”.  When I explained that I had done it to be sweet, he asked for help in scrubbing it off.

Last weekend, Alex stripped off all of his clothes, climbed on top of our van and joyfully shook his business at a passing neighbor.

Several days before that, two well dressed women banged on my front door as I was cooking dinner to ask “Are those your children?”.  I looked out the door to see Jack holding a screaming, half-dressed Alex and trying to pull him off of my car (Alex dearly loves to scale cars).  I resisted the urge to say no and go back inside.


It’s pretty much minute-by-minute chaos around here lately.  There is puddle stomping, sidewalk painting and strawberry picking, yes, but then there is also sibling battles, tattling and wailing.

My good friend Tiffany called today to give me a pep talk.  She told me all the things I already know but needed to hear — that my kids will look back at their childhoods and appreciate them, that I’m doing a good job — and that I need more chocolate.  😉

And as I am writing this, Jack just appeared under my window gathering rose petals and asking me to come down and join him.  He has apparently forgiven me for the hand graffiti and has decided this is one of the times I’m fabulous.

It will be a few days before I get my mama groove back, and I guess that’s okay.  In the meantime, I was especially nice to myself today.  I asked Daryl to watch the boys and took a rare afternoon nap.  I chatted on the phone for an hour.  I’m off to spend some time with Jack now, but after that I have definite plans that involve hot baths, good books, bad TV and bowls of ice cream.

Some days there’s more screaming than usual.  Some days we aren’t so appreciated.  I’m comforted by the fact that those days pass, and the hard work does pay off even when you think it was wasted.  Some little boy brings you a drawing of your favorite garden spot and asks if you’ll spend some time with him, and you realize you didn’t do such a bad job after all.


Filed under the big stuff