Pausing to listen to an airplane in the sky, stooping to watch a ladybug on a plant, sitting on a rock to watch the waves crash over the quayside – children have their own agendas and timescales. As they find out more about their world and their place in it, they work hard not to let adults hurry them. We need to hear their voices.
I remember the smell of fresh cut grass combining with the scent of burning wood as the cool autumn breeze touched my face, blowing my hair into my light blue eyes. The sun’s late evening rays filtered through the willow tree, branches hanging low as the lightly floated across the grass, almost hay as it was burnt from the late summer’s heat.
Running through the yard, arms spread wide as if I were trying to fly, take off from this magical place that I so often yearn to go back to as an adult. Pretending to be a princess or a lost explorer, I combed the yard and surrounding field for lost artifacts or my stolen crown. Mixing dirt and twigs, I concocted magic portions to save my village or exotic recipes to serve the guests dining at my palace.
The stories that played out in my yard, in my mind, were so detailed that they made up a world all of their own. They made up a world that, as an adult, I don’t think I ever truly appreciated at the time. I never really understood the magic of being able to believe and that being able to make nothing into something was a gift to be held onto. But it is a gift that fades with age.
As time goes by, I have begun to realize that I have started to take myself too seriously with age. I have slowly forgotten how to stop and observe the simplicities of the world around me. I can remember when my biggest accomplishments were learning to ride my bike, or tie my shoes, or read a book, or sit through The Exorcist without covering my head with a blanket. All of those things seem so small, so trivial now, but when I was 5 or 6 or 7, they weren’t. They were amazing.
As an adult, I have forgotten how to see these small achievements, these daily battles overcome, as true accomplishments and something to be proud of. As adults, we fail to look at the small and only weigh in on the greater. Running with blinders, eyes set straight ahead on that promotion, or bigger house, a newer car, we miss out on all of the wonderful things that happen each day. Over taken by our own responsibilities and our personal goals we miss watching the leaves fall, diving off trees, and spiraling like miniature tornadoes.
Doing things out of the ordinary, out of the norm of our daily routine can bring a little bit of magic back into our lives. I feel that is what was missing in my life. I was missing the “magic”. I lived with excuses.
Life was not meant to be rushed, but it was not meant to be stagnant. It was meant to take place somewhere in the middle. Taking note of the world around you and all of its perplexities, slowing down to stop and smile about all that you have achieved (no matter how small), but without losing sight of what’s left to be obtained – finding a balance and finding happiness.
That magical mind we had as children still dwells inside most of us… But, we sometimes are afraid to let it breath and live. So long as we do not make the mistake of trying to become it again, as a part of ourselves, it is a remarkable asset!
So What do We As Parents Need to Know to Help Our Children Have Magical Years…..
- That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.
- That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.
- That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.
- That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like legos and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.
- That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US.They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.
Magic Garden Song
A magical garden of make believe
Where flowers chuckle and birds play tricks
And a magic tree grows lollipop sticks
Can you crow like a rooster?
And clap your hands and stamp your shoe
It’s a funny place but it’s surely true,
That we’d like to share it all with you
If you sing for me (la la-la-la-la-la)
I’ll sing for you (lu lu-lu-lu-lu-lu)
If you cry for me (ooo hoo-hoo-hoo)
I’ll cry for you (boo hoo-hoo-hoo)
If you scream for me (aaaahhhh! )
I’ll scream for you (waaaahhhh! )
If you laugh for me (hee hee-hee-hee-hee-hee)
I’ll laugh for you (ha ha-ha-ha-ha-ha)
So come on in without a fuss,
‘Cause the magical garden is waiting for us
- Leave a secret “I love you” message hidden in a lunch box, painted on their pancakes or tucked into their shoes. Better yet, leave a dozen.
- Fake a doctor’s appointment. If you have kids in school, let them (and the school) think they have to get out of school for an appointment. Pick them up and take them to a picnic in the park instead (or whatever you’d both enjoy).
- Have a tacky fashion show. Get together the loudest clothes you can find and give out awards for the worst entries. Eat supper in costume.
- Write them a letter telling her how much you love them, and why. Be specific.
- Square dance. In the living room. Grown ups too. Make it up if you don’t know how.
- Tell your kids their birth stories. Add the little details and tell them if you cried or daddy wouldn’t let them go.
- Serve meals out of order. Have lunch for breakfast, desert for lunch, etc.
- Eat it with the wrong utensils and be artistic with it. Pipe tartar sauce haikus across the fish sticks and then scramble them to make new poems. You get the idea.
- Crawl under the table with your little one. Do at least three different normal activities under there (reading books, brushing teeth, snack time…)
- Get together a pile of your children’s artwork and take the kids to a senior citizen center. Pass out the art and spend time with the residents. Let your kids know how happy they made people.
- Give your child a disposable camera and tell her to record all her favorite parts of her life with the photos.
- Go for a long walk and just talk.
- Play truth or dare.
- Have a camp-out in the living room. Roast marshmallows over candles and tell ghost stories by flashlight.
- If you have access to a camcorder, record at least an hour of silliness. Add some sentiment too, having everybody tell things they’re thankful for, what they’ve loved about this year, and things they love about each other. Close with more silliness.
- Help them decorate their rooms with glow-in-the-dark stars, bugs or images.
- Go on a road trip for the day, anywhere you’ve never been.
- Write a silly poem or story just for him. Make him the hero and fill it with stuff he loves.
- After dark, go look at the stars together.
- Spend the whole day saying “mommy loves you.” Say it so much you’re annoying and strange! At the end of the night, tiptoe in and whisper it to them as they sleep. Fill them up with how loved they are, and tiptoe out.
I don’t know why all the trees change in the fall
But I know you’re not scared of anything at all
Don’t know if Snow White’s house is near or far away
But I know I had the best day with you today
There is a video I found from back when I was three
You set up a paint set in the kitchen and you’re talking to me
It’s the age of princesses and pirate ships and the seven dwarfs
And Daddy’s smart and you’re the prettiest lady in the whole wide world
I think that’s why I love to write. I can go back to that childhood state of imagination and magic and conjure up people and places without being bogged down by knowledge or logic. I can hold on to the magic of childhood.
Many wonderful things happen when you’re a child but also when you grow up, and the key is not to forget about them but to hold them in your heart and they will shape the person you are, have always been and will always be.
My prayer today is that my babies and now grandkids never get too “grown up” to….
Jump in Puddles..
Lie in the Grass.
Build a Fort..
Play in the Rain..
Reach for the Stars..
I feel that my job is to help them hold onto the magic and innocence of childhood, for as long as possible…
“Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity. ”
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