My Kids Will Have a Magical Childhood (One That I Will Help Make Happen)
In Ms. Bunmi Laditan's recent Huffington Post blog post, "I'm Done Making My Kid's Childhood Magical," she indicates that childhood itself is inherently magical; that parents shouldn't be stressing about finding 'the best' on Pinterest, or planning and executing crafts; that time spent playing outside and using imagination was what she recalls as being the happiness in her childhood. She pointedly states that a trip she took to Disneyland when she was five-years-old that she doesn't even recollect. She suggests that parents should allow their children to experience their childhood rather than it be manufactured for them.
"The magic we speak of and so desperately want our children to taste isn't of our creation, and therefore is not ours to dole out as we please. It is discovered in quiet moments by a brook or under the slide at the park, and in the innocent laughter of a life just beginning."
I understand what Laditan is trying to say; that children can experience magic without the additions of extravagance or monetary support. However, I disagree with much of her article.
Yes, our parents played with us less. We went outside and played from sun up to sun down. In general, I didn't do crafts with my mom or my friends either. But Laditan fails to mention the realities that went along with that time. Moms were doing almost everything from scratch—baking bread, making meals, washing dishes, hanging clothes on the clothes line and then ironing them. Daily chores took a significant amount of time that is greatly reduced now (I can think of four times times I have used my iron—ever). Kids went outside to play so mom could get all that other stuff done.
I make a lot of our meals and snacks from scratch, and it still only takes me about an hour a day to prep all that, and all the dishes get loaded into the dishwasher. It runs while I hang the clothes that just came out of the dryer. And then I am done. I don't even vacuum my floors every day, the Roomba does it for me. So why not spend the extra time with my children? We build train tracks and Lego castles. Sometimes I am the train conductor, sometimes I read while sitting in the same room with them. Sometimes we play tag, or build forts, or bake. We go on walks, build snowmen, race toothpicks in the water drainage and go puddle splashing. When they are old enough to go outside on their own with other kids, I will encourage them to do so. But the concept of sun up to sun down isn't a reality anymore. Outside playtime will be balanced with having some time with Mom (and Dad) too.
Imposing your childhood on others.
Laditan makes a point of saying that the times she spent exploring on her own were much magical than a trip to Disneyland she took at age five that she can't even remember. She indicates that she remembers birthday parties where, "We popped balloons, ran around in the backyard, and we had cake. Simple. But when I look back on those times, they were magical."
What bothers me the most about this post is that she is inferring that people who do, or experience, anything other than her recollection of what was magical are manufacturing the magic. I wholeheartedly disagree. Children with an extravagant party and a birthday cake that took four days and $400 to make will remember their parties as fondly as she does hers—it is what they know, and it will be magical.
I spent countless hours outside as a kid. My best friend and I would ride our bikes around town for hours, going from park to park, and stopping for a Slurpee somewhere along the way. I agree with Laditan, it was magical.
On summer vacation my parents took my sister and I traveling. I have visited nine of Canada's ten provinces, almost all of the States, England, Scotland and Wales. I have hiked the Grand Canyon, eaten all I could at a lobster fest after touring the Bluenose in Halifax, and thrown up in a rental car on the back windy roads of Scotland.
I recall on our second trip to Disneyland, when I was about eight, telling my Mom that I was, "quite old enough to ride every ride with my sister, and didn't need to ride any with mom or dad." I remember begging my sister to ride Space Mountain with me, and then bailing on her at the front of the line when I realized it was a roller coaster. I recall being about 12 and asking a girl about my age in the campsite next to us where the swimming pool was. We were in Quebec. I used charades and some words french I recalled from grade four. She figured it out and took me. We hung out for about an hour asking each other questions in our made up language. Even as I type this, these memories are making me smile. It was all magical.
We camped on weekends. I can cook a mean steak on a coal barbecue and can start a fire from a few pieces of a wood (and a LOT of matches). Thanks to my Dad, I can steer a canoe and bait and cast a fishing rod. If I am lucky enough to catch a fish I can skin, gut, and fillet it. I wasn't on the stoop with my dog like Laditan was, I was doing activities with my family, traveling with them, annoying them. It was magical.
We held our son's three year birthday at a local nature centre that has a play area and allows kids at the party to pet a snake and a salamander. I decorated the room with Spiderman everything, purchased a Spiderman cake, and customized the gift bags to the age of the kids attending. I didn't post it on Facebook. It wasn't a contest. I did it because I know he likes Spiderman. And he likes snakes. And it was -25 Celcius on his birthday and the indoor play area seemed appropriate. And he loved it. The other day we went back to the centre and he sang Happy Birthday the whole way there. He might not remember it when he is an adult, but he remembers it now. For my son, it was magical.
What I am realizing as a parent is that the type of upbringing you had affects your thoughts on what an appropriate upbringing is for your children. My husband grew up athletic, excelling in every sport he played while spending his childhood playing spontaneous games of soccer, football, and street hockey. We are passing this onto our children. Our three-year-old started skating lessons this winter and is in soccer for the spring. We have plans for our first trip to Disneyland next summer.
Ms. Laditan, your childhood was magical. Mine was magical too. And while we don't agree on the specifics, I believe your children's childhood will be just as magical as my kids'.
article previously ended with "I simply choose to partake in the magic" but the author removed it as the interpretation of it being snarky was not intended.