No Magic, No Glitter, No Daily Fireworks, No Problem (Your Kid Will Be Fine)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The strength of an encouraging word: After having our patience stretched to the limit waiting at the local pharmacy for earache medicine, The Youngster asked if he could have a wind-up toy. The crappy, plastic thing had held his attention for the last 10 minutes of our long wait.  And I — tired and annoyed with the notorious slowpoke pharmacist — conceded. But when we got the cashier at the front, the toy rang up for nearly six bucks.

Hell no. We were not doing that.

Book Road Play | Ms, Mary Mack

I told my son that it was too expensive and we were not getting the toy. Of course, tears.

“Hon, we talked about this already: You won’t get something every time we go to a store. That’s just not going to happen.’

More long tears, and the saddest sad-baby face you’ll every want to see. I held my ground, despite all the stares from other customers.

We started to walk towards the door when an older lady approached me.

“Excuse me,” she said, reaching out to touch my shoulder. “I don’t mean to pry, but I just want to commend you on being a good mother — a strong one. When my kids were little, I remember having a moment like that. My son was making quite the scene, and all the other well-to-do mothers were staring at me and shaking their heads. It made me feel like I was the meanest mom for telling my child, ‘No, we can’t afford that today.’ So I want applaud you; you’re doing a great job with him. This is life, and sometimes he will hear ‘no,’ and he’ll be perfectly fine.”

My mouth sailed open. All that trickled out was, “Thank you. I really … thank you.” She smiled. I smiled. And we went our respective ways.

The kid was still crying — although  no longer bawling whhyyyyyyy — when we got to the car. He calmed himself down to sniffles and staccato breathing as we turned on to our nearby street. And by the time we got in the house, took off our shoes and settled in, he was, as that older mom said, perfectly fine.

He went off to build a mini LEGO truck (which serves tea, I was soon informed)  and I hit Twitter for some decompress time. That’s when I read my hilarious bloggy friend Bunmi Laditan‘s HuffPost piece and nearly hurt my neck nodding. The post, “I’m Done Making My Kid’s Childhood Magical,” is so spot-on, and confronts the pressure that too many mothers feel to make their children’s lives extraordinary and downright dreamy by creating elaborate crafts and planning endless phenomenal activities and experiences. Of course, all of this magical living is documented on Instagram, Facebook and — the grandest showcase  — Pinterest for anyone to consume, covet, and use as further unassailable proof that: I’m doing this parenting thing wrong. Just look at what THAT mother pulled off!

It’s when Bunmi made this superb point that I practically fist-bumped the air:

“A childhood without Pinterest crafts can be magical. A childhood without a single vacation can be magical. 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.”

Yes, and YESSSSSS!

Jupiter at home | Ms. Mary Mack

There’s nothing wrong with spending time with your kids creating fun and having little adventures. Listen, last month I had a blast making a mess with my kid painting a foam ball to look like Jupiter. I had the paints already stashed in my own creative box, and the ball cost me a dollar. Fun and done.

But it’s the desperate push to have everything be so otherworldly and perfect that is the complete waste of time and energy — almost ironically so. Here you are tearing off your shirt trying to have the most magical, wonderful, unforgettable craft, vacation or experience, and in all that frenzy, you might just miss the true beauty of the moment: time spent together living a life.

There’s also nothing wrong with kids being bored; having to play with the same ol’ toys again; or waking up to a regular, simple day without bells or glitter or shooting stars. They can handle it. After all, you did, right?

  • 1
    writeli says:

    Such a great post. We didn’t have much as kids, but we had a ton of books, our imaginations and the time in which to exercise them. I’d like to give the little man the same gift so he learns to keep his own company, appreciate what he has and enjoy it.

    • 1.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      Exactly! We used to run around outside for hours and I love, love, loved reading at the library or in my room, or playing make-believe whatever — and it was pretty magical.

  • 2
    CookiePie says:

    Yes yes yes. I had the same experience at the Atlantic Antic last year – $9 for a princess balloon. Hell no. Lots of tears and pointing to other kids that had them, but we just said no, it’s too much money.
    Sometimes other kids will have things you don’t have and sometimes you’ll have things other kids don’t have. We wanted her to enjoy the fair just for the experience, without taking home a prize (especially a $9 balloon–I mean, really??). Hard lessons but so important!

    • 2.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      Yes, some of the prices on these silly cheap things… get outta here!

      Thanks for the comment, CookiePie. ;-)

  • 3
    Loren says:

    I think what makes time magical is the time we connect with each other.

  • 4

    Yes! My husband and I occasionally grimace at each other about this. The things these kids have made from cardboard and leftover wrapping paper is amazing — and I didn’t “help” at all.

    Also, love that the woman made the effort to say something. (Although I’ll bet many of the onlookers were more sympathetic than you think!)

  • 5
    Ms. Mary Mack says:

    Thanks. I know that there were probably some sympathetic onlookers. But there were also some that were less so. Just the way things roll out in these parenting streets.