Tag Archives: rants

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.

And….

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.

silly

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.  🙂

dancing

 

 

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Just a little rant….

I got my first hate mail comment today on this blog!  I must admit it wasn’t the nicest way to start the day!  I wanted to respond to it, though, because…. well, frankly because it annoyed me and it’s my blog so I will!  🙂

The comment was about my article "What Should a 4 Year Old Know?," which isn’t even posted here.  It’s on my web site and this person was so annoyed she surfed over here to rant at me.

She wrote (ironically enough on my happy post!):

(Anonymous) (72.79.77.46) wrote:

Mar. 13th, 2009 08:19 am (local)
what 4yr olds should know
I happen to be part of one of those "fancy preschools" you are mentioning. Did you evrer consider doing any research before bashing all schools into one? Our school takes the approach of using imaginationa nd learning through play and experience – in fact any quality early childhood setting would not and should not be teaching children by rote memorization! Early Childhood Educators know this to be true – It is amazing to me how many people think they are experts on childhood because they have children!

Hmmm…

Yes, us pesky parents thinking we’re experts on childhood because we have children.  The nerve!

First off, I’d like to mention that this article has gotten me more positive letters than all the rest of my writing combined.  I wrote it over 5 years ago and still get letters at least once a week from mothers, grandmothers and others who say they were stressed about their little ones behind "behind" and feel reassured about what matters to them.  I’ve also received quite a few letters from educators who wholeheartedly approved of it, including many kindergarten teachers who have written to say they wish more of their students’ parents could read it.  Schools, Head Start programs and day care providers have all requested permission to reprint it for parents.  It was featured on a family TV show and has been included in various newsletters.  I even had a school principal write me saying she agreed and was heartbroken because her granddaughter was in an "elite" preschool and was already developing stress and anxiety at age four.  So apparently some "experts" happen to agree with me.

Anonymous assumed I have no training in early childhood education because I’m a mother.  This is actually not true.  I studied Early Elementary Education at the University of Kentucky and had classes on subjects like teaching elementary math, children’s literature and child development.  I was a teacher’s aide in a first and second grade classroom and volunteered at a crisis nursery.  I ultimately changed my major to creative writing so my degree is not in Elementary Education, but I thoroughly enjoyed my classes and got a lot out of them. 

I was also an active volunteer in our area Head Start program and led special events with children on subjects like dinosaurs and St. Patrick’s Day, and served as the Chairperson of the area Parent Council for 2 years.  I helped interview potential preschool teachers and attended professional seminars on subjects like Sensory Integration.

My family is full of educators.  My grandmother was a teacher, then principal, then dean of education of a university and finally started an educational resource center that provides services like test preparation and tutoring.  She is in her 90’s and still manages the store full time.  My mother was a teacher and a psychologist, at times working exclusively with children.  I grew up steeped in theories of education and child development.

I also attended one of those fancy preschools.  From ages three to five I attended a Montessori preschool.  It was an excellent preschool and I still have a construction paper map of South America that I made as a student.

As a homeschooling parent, I have spent hundreds of hours researching education, from Waldorf to Montessori to unschooling to classical education.  I have read works by educators from John Taylor Gatto to Charlotte Mason.  I have subscriptions to educational publications like Edutopia and keep current on educational studies and trends because it is a subject I have remained thoroughly interested in all of my life.

So yeah, I actually have done research.

In the end, none of that qualifies me to call myself an "expert" on childhood though (not that I ever said I was one to begin with).  Anonymous is quite wrong if she thinks that classes or degrees or seminars qualify anybody to be an expert on childhood. 

Parents ARE experts on childhood.  We live this.  There is an old saying something along the lines of "the instant a child is born, so is a mother."  The instant we become mothers, we possess a kind of knowledge about our children that no book or class can teach.  We can tell by looking at our babies when something is wrong.  We know by their cries if they are hungry or in pain.  We can be in a separate room and feel our milk let down just as baby wakes to nurse. 

Society works very hard to convince us that we are "just" mothers and don’t know what’s best for our own children.  Doctors give us advice that goes against our instincts.  Outsiders warn us of dire consequences if we hold our babies too much.  Again and again, the message is that you should not listen to your heart and you should instead leave the raising of your child to the experts.

Pah.

My terribly inflammatory article dared to say that children need free play and nature and time with their parents.  It said that small children have a far greater need for love, play and one-on-one time than academics.  I recommended reading and taking walks and making messes and spending time together.  This is outrageous?

Here’s a news flash, Anonymous.  I’m "just" a mother, but I have 4 pretty amazing kids who didn’t just survive a lack of fancy preschools but are thriving at home.  They are really smart, creative, good little people and they are joyful.  They are loved and they are flourishing.  How could anybody have a problem with that?

I actually never said anything against children attending preschools, anyway.  I just said that other things were ultimately far more important.

I’m glad you are so passionate about your preschool.  I hope you are just as passionate about the children and that you help them feel special and brilliant and silly and strong.  And I hope when they’re not at your preschool that someone is snuggling with them and making mud pies and loving them to the moon and back.  Because I stand by my article.  To a four year-old, that’s the stuff that matters most.


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