Do parents make childhood magical?
I’ve read a few posts lately about how ‘Parents do NOT make Childhood Magical’ and it got me thinking about the whole idea of a ‘magical childhood.’ In the end I got a bit angry with these posts and decided that I disagree. Here’s why…
First of all, what do we really mean by a ‘magical childhood’?
To me a magical childhood conjures up thoughts of those amazing little moments that you have as a child that you will always remember. Putting out your stocking on Christmas Eve, camping in a field, watching the stars. To me it’s about those experiences where you are lost in the moment and filled with wonder or excitement – for the natural world, for an experience, for a belief in magic.
So do parents make those moments happen? Some would say, no.
I get it. We live in a Pinterest and parenting handbook fuelled culture, where the epitomy of a ‘perfect family’ and a ‘perfect childhood’ appears to be continually placed before us – a perfect idealism that we are are somehow supposed to achieve.
Most of us (make that ALL of us) have felt this pressure at one time or another and it can be a tough thing to remind ourselves that there is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect childhood.
We all want and do the best we can for our kids. But really perfection is in the messiness that is love, family and parenthood.
Those that argue that parents are not responsible for making a childhood magical, are fighting against this media fueled pressure on parents to achieve perfectionism. They are saying that a magical childhood is not about having a pinterest perfect birthday party or making 10 different Christmas crafts.
Some say that parents do not make childhood magical by striving towards ideals. They are saying that magic happens in childhood through a child’s own doing. That children find magic in the simple every day things, like walking barefoot in the sand, or looking up at the stars.
And I have to say that here I agree. Children are the ones who experience the magic in their own childhood. They absolutely find the magic in many experiences without any help from us adults. Children often find magic in the every day and often when you would least expect it. Getting lost as a family while out hiking could be seen as a disaster to the grown ups involved, but the kids might see it as a great adventure!
I also agree that we as parents should not strive to achieve some unrealistic ideal of giving our kids a ‘perfect’ and magical childhood, full of pre-planned activities, out of pressure from social media or to keep up with the Joneses. If we are doing things just because we feel like we ‘should’ then we may as well not bother because our heart is not in it.
BUT (you knew there was a but coming right?!) does this mean that parents do not, emphatically, make childhood magical? Not at all? Not whatsoever?
No, I disagree.
Yes, children find magic in many experiences themselves, but I think MANY of the opportunities and experiences we give children as parents contribute to their sense of wonder and magic. Many of my magical memories of childhood are things that my parents did either for me or with me.
My parents used to LOVE throwing us themed birthday parties and making us the most incredible cakes. I remember a magical Halloween themed party my parents organised for me. We all dressed up, there were Halloween themed games and food. I distinctly remember a ‘swirling mist’ pudding. It was amazing, I loved it!
This was long before the days of Pinterest. My parents planned us cool parties just because they loved doing it and wanted our birthdays to be special. Not because they felt like they ‘should’. Every year my mum (or sometimes dad!) made us a decorated cake. They enjoyed it. They found it fun!
At Christmas my parents always bought a real tree and there would be a ritual of decorating the tree one evening. One of my favourite childhood memories is of me and my sister sitting under the newly decorated Christmas tree, staring at the lights and speculating about what would be inside each of the carefully wrapped presents sat under the tree. We’ve started the tradition of a real Christmas tree in our family and I can’t wait to continue it with my children.
My parents were (and still are) so good at celebrating. They love an occasion and really go to town on making it special. If you are ever lucky enough to share a Christmas dinner with my parents you will not go hungry and will go home with the festive spirit in your belly and your soul. Everything was celebrated in my childhood and we had great rituals of celebrating. Birthdays. Halloween. Bonfire Night. Christmas. Long summer nights. Easter and well, just because. All of our celebrations felt so magical to me. Everything was made to feel special.
Then there was the outdoor time. Living in a rural area of England we spent lots of time outdoors in the woods or at the beach. Holidays camping or in youth hostels. It is the simplest of the holidays that I remember with the most fondness and sense of wonder. Hiking up hills in Scotland, collecting rocks and eating cake.
All of the things my parents did with thought and from the heart made my childhood magical.
For some parents it might be amazing birthday parties, for some it might be making crafts, or building dens. Or it might just be dancing around in your pj’s, having a midnight feast or going camping – it doesn’t matter what your interests or strengths are. All of us love and want to spend time with our kids. Whatever you do for or with your kids, big or small, I believe if it is genuine and fun and thoughtful and comes from the heart then that is going to be a magical experience for them.
So yes, children make childhood magical, but actually parents make childhood magical too. Not because we feel pressured by social media, or because so and so down the road is doing this or that. But because we WANT to. Because it comes from the heart. From us to them.
Every year when we were kids, a few days before Easter, my dad would tell us that he was going to go and feed our chickens some cocoa (yes we kept chickens). When Easter came around we would excitedly go and collect the eggs in the morning, only to find, nestled amongst the chicken eggs, some chocolate eggs! They were just sitting there, as if my magic, as if laid by the chickens, after eating all that cocoa that had been sprinkled into their food. THAT is one of my magical memories of childhood. And I didn’t make that happen all by myself.
It was simple, thoughtful and from the heart.
I will be forever grateful for all of the magical moments I had throughout my childhood. I only hope that I can provide my own children with some of the magical moments and experiences that I was lucky enough to have when I was a child.
What do you think? Do you think parents make childhood magical?
You might also like my recent post 10 Magical Things to do with Your Kids
This post first appeared on HuffPost UK.