Playing with a stick is ‘magical’
“If our grandmothers and great-grandmothers could see the pressure modern mothers put on themselves, they'd think we were insane.”
That’s how Bunmi Laditan, the Quebec-based author of wildly popular “Honest Toddler” book and blog opened her post, “I’m Done Making My Kid's Childhood Magical.”
“Ah, yes,” I thought. “This is just what I need, something to make me feel less guilty about not being a Pinterest-perfect parent to our 6-year-old son.”
You can't walk through Pinterest without tripping over 100 Indoor Summer Craft Ideas … 14 Million Pose Ideas For Elf on The Shelf, 12 Billion Tooth Fairy Strategies. ... Today, parents are being fed the idea that it benefits children to constantly be hand in hand, face to face, "What do you need, my precious darling? How can I make your childhood amazing?"
“Hear, hear,” I thought! I’m just an Elf on the Shelf kind of person. I did not put out a shiny penny on St. Patrick’s Day eve so that my son could find a Night Fury dragon action figure (with catapult tail) in its place the next day.
But as I read on, I realized this wasn’t just another parent hating on those parents who like to do crafty or creative things — more power to those mammas, I figure, despite the competition and guilt they can cause.
No. Laditan explained that the things she remembers most from her childhood were simple — not the grand gestures her parents made for Easter or Christmas, not the creative crafts (if ever there were any) or even their most expensive family trips. It was the times when she was allowed to just be an unentertained kid.
I've been told we went to Disneyland when I was 5. I have no memory of this, but I've seen the faded photographs. What I do remember from that age is the pirate Halloween costume I wore proudly, picking plums from the tree in front of my house, intentionally flooding the backyard garden to teach myself to skip rocks, and playing with my dog on my front stoop.
Yes, yes! We went to Disneyland, too, when I was in 8th grade, but that’s not the kind of stuff I really remember or treasure either.
I remember a game we played on dark, moonless nights. We called it “Car, car!” Well after dark, we’d stand around in the front yard in the blackness. Then, as soon as we saw headlights coming, we’d shout “Car, car!” and dramatically and quickly “hide,” crouching down so that the cars couldn’t see or “get” us.
It’s still a delightful memory for me, the epitome of child-made magic. As Laditan puts it:
Parents do not make childhood magical. Abuse and gross neglect can mar it, of course, but for the average child, the magic is something inherent to the age. Seeing the world through innocent eyes is magical. Experiencing winter and playing in the snow as a 5-year-old is magical. Getting lost in your toys on the floor of your family room is magical. Collecting rocks and keeping them in your pockets is magical. Walking with a branch is magical.
“Walking with a branch is magical.”
Wow. That really struck me. Right on, Mama! But can kids really have that in the age of rear-facing car seats until age 2, participation trophies, cyberbullying and Angry Birds?
Yes. I’m here to tell you, it’s not just talk of days gone by. I have proof.
Within days of reading Laditan’s post, my son and I were out in the yard, playing in the April snow, when — finally abandoned by his doting, iPhone-toting mother — he picked up a branch and pondered it.
He threw it, watched it land awkwardly in the snow, picked it up, laughed and repeated the whole process again and again, chasing it around the yard, stumbling in the snow as he went.
It went on like that for more than 15 minutes.
But see? He’s fascinated, relaxed and purely in the moment and not the least bit in need of me. Is this the kind of stuff he’ll remember? The peace and quiet of the yard, and the sun on his face with not a care in the world?
I hope so.
Days after the snow melted, he came home with a bag of rocks, and, surprise, sticks, all procured on the playground at his elementary school.
“I just found these!” he said, impressed with his own rich luck. Free rocks! Sticks! There was even an old, weathered cough drop, a couple pistachio shells and Rainbow Loom bands, of course.
I was not to take them or dispose of any these treasures, of course. These were small miracles.
Sarah Dorison is the Editor of Minnesota Parent and Minnesota Good Age magazines. She lives in Golden Valley with her husband and their 6-year-old son. Follow her parenting adventures and photography at instagram.com/mnparent. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.