“Why I’m NOT Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical”
Yesterday, a friend posted this on her Facebook page. “I’m done making my kid’s child magical“ by Bunmi Laditan, featured on The Huffington Post.
Bunmi’s article is a reminder that it is not our job as parents to CREATE a magical life for our children, and that they already see and find magic everyday, everywhere, in play and through imagination.
She wrote, “We do not need to make our children’s childhood magical. Childhood is inherently magical, even when it isn’t perfect.”
She gave parents everywhere an opportunity to take a little rest from the party planning, the home decoration, the fashion styling, the fierce competitiveness and the social sharing of our exploits…. “It is not our responsibility to manufacture contrived memories on a daily basis”
And I agree with her on both these points.
BUT, for me, there is something else going on here.
I believe that mums/moms/mamas who decide to spend their days ‘creating elaborate crafts for your children, making sure their rooms are decked-out Pottery Barn Ikea masterpieces worthy of children’s magazines, and dressing them to the nines in trendy coordinated outfits?‘ don’t do it to prove to anyone that they are a ‘good mom’ or make others jealous by sharing their efforts on social media platforms.
I think perhaps they just like to create and play and have fun, and that coming up with ideas for a birthday party (the world’s BEST creative opportunity for crafty mamas?) or planning for an afternoon of crafty or creative activity (chaos?), baking a banana cake or making food art, or designing or decorating a child’s bedroom, is something that brings out or fires up THEIR inner creative spark. Fills THEM with magic and joy and wonder. NOURISHES them on a spiritual level and gives them strength to keep going, day by day, as they travel over the roadbumps of early childhood parenting. Perhaps these things help them to find meaning and excitement and a new-found inner resourcefulness within the often-mundane daily drudge of repetition and routine. Perhaps (GASP!) they even do these things because they WANT to!
Perhaps all this creative effort is not for the children at all, but a chance to be a kindergartener themselves again. Painting and drawing and singing and making and playing and having fun and all those things that Grown Ups don’t have much time to do at all. I know that is why I do it. I love it. Creating, for whatever reason, but definitely for and with my children, is the BEST FUN EVER. And if what we do does turn out to be some kind of magic, then even better.
AND since when does parenting have to be competitive? Why not mutually encouraging? All it takes is a mind shift.
Instead of, ”Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” parenting model, why not ‘Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Too!’?
Or even, ‘Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Too, But I Choose Instead To Do Something Else Entirely’.
We all have the power of choice. We do. Opting Out or Taking a Detour are perfectly good choices too. Making and crafting and baking and cooking are not the only parameters of a ‘good mom/mum’. But depending on who you are, these crafty creative sharing opportunities might be part of your ideal family life and world. They definitely are in mine. But there’s a difference between doing things with your children as part of a ‘handmade home ethos’, planning for seasonal, ceremonial or commemorative aspects of life, and being someone’s entertainment director* (as I describe overzealous helicopter types in my book.)
Bunmi also suggested that children don’t need expensive holidays or adventurous vacations to fantastic destinations and that some of the best memories she has are of playing, and dress ups, and backyard shenanigans and time spent with pets. I agree. Imaginative play is the bee’s knees. Bring on more of this everywhere I say.
But the reality is that many children are NOT growing up like this at all. They are being fed a diet of ipads and screens in all shapes and sizes every single day, computer games (even if they are helpful things that many parents like, such as ‘Reading Eggs‘ or maths ‘games’) and movies, and live over-scheduled lives without much of a connection to nature and natural rhythms, or childhood magic at all. There’s simply no time to daydream or spend hours mulling over life’s mysteries. And for these children, when magic is not necessarily present, then making magic (through adult-crafted parties, or crafts, or activities) might just have to do.
And as for travel… let me be frank. I don’t travel FOR the children. I travel for myself. I take the children along because I have to. And I’m their mama. I don’t want to leave them anywhere else. And while of course I absolutely want them to learn about the world and all the magic and wonder that there is on our planet (I’m a traveller after all!), what I really want is to have MY eyes opened wide once again. To be in awe of the colours and language and sounds and tastes and smells and shapes and histories and stories that fill our planet with colour and life and light. Travel opens a window of magic and wonder and excitement and allows ME to step back into that childhood space of deep trust and open-eyed wonder at everything from a tiny ant to a huge building. And travelling WITH my little ones gently leads me to places that I have forgotten even exist. A second childhood. Not to mention giving me an ‘in’ into the local culture and allowing me to step beyond ‘tourism’ into ‘localness’. People in many countries LOVE kids. And when they talk to my kids, they talk to me too. It’s all awesome.
*In my world, becoming known as the ‘entertainment director’ for my children would be possibly the worst thing ever. Bah. Humbug. No way and no thanks. They have their own imaginative brain for that. Self-directed play is crucial and mandatory in my house. Our catch cry? ”Bored? Then go play.” But if they can’t, there’s always a helping job they can do until they come up with an idea. Amazing how fast those ideas start flying!
PS: Just so you know, I’m a mama who LOVES Pinterest. I have boards and boards full of ideas. I also share everything I make on there with full instructions for other mamas and children to have a go too. I hope you do. Discovering a hidden or lapsed creative talent and firing up this untended creative spark through whatever means possible is one of the BEST gifts we can ever be given in life beyond the childhood years. I also love Instagram and seeing what friends and the interesting people I follow are doing in their life each day. For me, it’s all about making the world a little bit smaller and more connected. It doesn’t make me jealous but might give me a push to get off the couch and into the craft room again! Hooray for that.