Friday, April 25, 2014

I'm NOT Done Making My Kid's Childhood Magical

Let's get one thing straight -- I am no supporter of the "Comparison Game." You know the one.

Here's how you play it:

(1) See an Instagram of the amazing "Where the Wild Things Are" birthday party that your friend threw for her one-year-old (who happens to be named Max, which makes you wonder for a second how long this has been in the works).

(2) Think about the last birthday party you threw for your three-year-old, which included a store bought cake, paper plates left over from a Christmas party, and a theme of...I don't know... "A Birthday Party"?

(3) Realize that you don't even own the book "Where the Wild Things Are."

(4) Remember that, oh wait, you do...but you've never read it to your kids. In fact, you used it as a makeshift dustpan to sweep cheerio crumbs into after your toddler threw them purposefully on the floor and then had a "wild rumpus" of sorts all over them.

(5) Cry.

Yeah, I've played that game a few too many times. And so have many other mothers. Really, it needs to stop.

And if the author of this article had stopped here, with the idea that we can be good mothers without Pinterest-worthy birthday parties, I would have supported her. Wholeheartedly. Because my word, if ombre frosting skills are what it takes to be a good mother, I never would have applied for the position (partially because I'm STILL not sure how to correctly pronounce "ombre").

But she doesn't stop there.

Instead, she says that magic is "inherent to childhood" and that parents should not try to "manufacture contrived memories" for their kids.

And that's where I call a time-out.

Sure, childhood has a lot of natural "magic" in it. The author uses snow as one example, saying "Experiencing winter and playing in the snow as a 5-year-old is magical." But what if your mom is out there with you, helping you build a lopsided snowman and showing you how to make snow angels and letting you hit her over and over with snowballs and making you hot cocoa when you're ready to come inside?

"Collecting rocks and keeping them in your pocket is magical." But what if your dad takes you for a walk to look for rocks for your collection and then helps you decorate a can to keep them in?

"Walking with a branch is magical." But what if your mom asks "What are you doing?" and you tell her you're leading a parade and she starts playing an imaginary drum and marches behind you?

Dare I say that this parental involvement might make these things... more magical? We can create magic for our kids. It doesn't always have to be with a big present or vacation. We can show our kids how to find magic everyday.

And, taking that a step further, dare I say that a little magic might happen for the parents as well?

The magic of parenthood is easily dispelled by tantrums, whining (OMG THE WHINING), rebellion, and fights -- over huge, gigantic, life-altering problems like broccoli and shampoo.

But a magic moment is precious. Those occasions when I see my children using their imaginations, enjoying the moment, smiling with their whole faces and whole hearts -- those are the moments I live for.

And I'll tell you what -- if I have to "manufacture" those moments, I will. If I can make those moments happen more often by organizing some crafts for my kids, or by hiring a princess to come to my daughter's birthday party, or by taking my kids to the park or zoo or even (gasp!) Disneyland, then I'm going to do it. Over and over and over again. And I'm going to take pictures and videos and I'm going to show them to my kids later and say "Look! Remember this? I loved having that day with you! Look how happy you are! I love it when you're happy. I love you!"

No, I don't plan on spoiling my kids. I don't buy them things for no reason. I don't keep them busy every minute of every day. They watch TV. They play outside. They play dress-up. They also help me wash dishes. And sweep the floor. And dust. I can teach them to be good children, children who appreciate hard work and beauty and relationships, while still creating exciting experiences for them. They are not doomed to be spoiled brats just because I set up that no-mess finger painting thing I saw on Pinterest (which, by the way, doesn't work too well).

So, to the author of that article, I just want to say that if you think I would create experiences for my children so that I can "win the game," you're wrong. You're wrong and you're judging me. (And by the way, by judging me, you're playing the game. Could you stop, please?). I try to make my kids' childhood magical, as much as I can, because I love them, and this is one way I've chosen to show it. I love them and I know there is only so much time before the magic fades, and they realize that Tigger is actually a guy in a Tigger suit. And man, that breaks my heart.

So until then, here's to all the magic I can manufacture, for myself and for my kids -- because we all deserve it.


5 comments:

  1. You are hilarious. I love you. And your pinterest parties. And when I get home I realize I could never throw a party like that. And I smile because I don't have to! You are fantastic. And on a side note, we do enjoy the chalk paint--its pretty easy and no mess to clean up.

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  2. I agree, too. I'm tired of all the extremes. Can't we just find our own middle ground and take ownership of it without attacking those who choose differently?

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  3. I read the article and I read your blog post - and I have some thoughts. When I read the article, I didn't feel like she was telling me to not make any effort in creating a great (or magical) childhood for my children. I felt as though she was saying it was okay to not engage in pinterest activities and elaborate events because childhood in itself is a great place to be. Basically, do what you want to do, but stop feeling the pressure that the greatness of childhood rests solely on your shoulders (and crafting abilities). I love being a mom – and I love having a special time with my kids. But playing with my children and even engaging in imaginary play is really difficult for me. I gravitate to older ages and more mature activities, and that’s just who I am. When I read your post, my heart started beating and my hands got all clammy. Imaginary drum playing and decorating a rock container – I never ever would have thought of something like that. I am not that person and the weight of feeling like I need to be is crushing. So, when I read that post, a weight is lifted off my shoulders and I don’t feel plagued with guilt. I think you took her article differently than I did, but it was a blessing for me to read and helped me realize that while it is awesome to play with my kids, it is also okay to let them find their own joy in the ordinary.

    Love ya

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    1. Oh, Katie. I'm so sorry if I weighed you (or anyone) down with what I wrote! That was definitely not my intention! You are seriously an amazing mother; your love for your boys is so evident and that's obviously what counts.

      I think maybe we just interpreted the article a little differently. I certainly got the "let go of the Pinterest/Instagram/Facebook guilt" message, and I'm totally on board with that one. I feel that guilt often and it's terrible. I certainly don't have the time, money, creativity, or energy to do elaborate things for my kids on a daily or weekly (or sometimes even monthly) basis. I just felt like she took it a step too far for my liking, into the realm of "if you go out of your way to manufacture memories for your kids, you are just trying to prove something to your friends and it's ultimately bad for your kids anyway." And I just don't think that's necessarily true. Every mother should play to her strengths and do what she can (and what she wants to) to help her kids learn and grow. For me, that sometimes means "creating" memories for my kids, and I guess I got a little defensive when she called those memories "contrived," when they're actually pretty precious to me, you know?

      Anyway, please don't feel pressure. You.are.a.great.mom. And if that other article made you realize just how great of a mom you are, you should read it every day, as many times as you need to. :)

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