Thursday, April 10, 2014

Magical Childhood?

Funny how certain headlines grab a reader's attention and -- Poof! -- a virtual conflagration sweeps through social media, Likes and Shares, What She Said! and Oh, Yeah!, emoticons proliferating. Last week the Huffington Post ran a thoughtful piece about balance and child rearing, a piece that would have had 90% of mothers nodding in agreement.

But where's the fun in that?

More to the point, where's the traffic?

So those bright folks over at Huffington added an inflammatory headline: I'm Done Making My Kid's Childhood Magical. And everyone in the Blogosphere who has a pulse, everyone who would have hit Like on a post titled Balance in Childhood, suddenly felt compelled to comment, to protest, to shout Amen!, to add their own take, their solidarity, their objections.

Just as I am doing here.

I loved what Kristen Howerton shared in Can We Bring the Holidays Down a Notch? Here's chunk of it:
We've got Valentine's Day, which has became The New Halloween, because God forbid you send a simple store-bought card. You'd better include some candy or your child will be shunned. Shunned! One of my kids came home with not just a candy from each class, but a WHOLE . . . GOODIE BAG from each student.
And then, I think I've got a break for a month BUT NO. Surprise! We've got 100 Days of School to celebrate. And by "celebrate" I mean the kids sticking 100 things on a hat. And by "the kids" I mean me.
And suddenly Pi Day is a thing? My children expect to be served pie because someone at school told them so?
And Dr. Seuss's birthday? Sure it's a great event for school, but my kids are now asking what we're doing to celebrate that at home, too.

In my morning surf, I stumbled upon this. Kelle Hampton is both really and funny. She begins her piece with an account of recent struggles involving The Tooth Fairy. Throughout her narratives, Kelle sprinkles helpful hints to avoid the debacle she describes.  I have committed them to memory. Here are Kelle's Tooth Fairy Rules: 

Tooth Fairy Rule #1: Dont' hype up the tooth fairy’s arrival if she’s not going to arrive.
Rule #2: Cross-check  @#$%*  stories between spouses before implementing. (Editor's note: This adage has so many, many applications).
Rule #3:  Don’t blame your kid for your failure. 
Rule #4: (You'd think this would be a given): Don't steal from your kids. 
Rule#5: Keep cash on hand.

Oh, the Tooth Fairy. 

Been there, blown that. Has the Fairy been MIA around here? Oh, yes. Have we "borrowed" from one kid to get out of hock with another? Oh, yes. Have we encouraged a child "to take a second look" when the Fairy has perhaps "overslept"? Oh, yes.

And then Kelle continues:

There was an article that went viral last week about how childhood is magical in itself, and we shouldn't try to make it more magical. I laughed and shook my head with an, “Oh ... so true!” but later felt a little voice, perhaps my own insecurity in wanting to defend our sometimes outlandish and yes, highly unnecessary, attempts to create magic . . .  “Defend the magic!” the voice whispered — an ironic plea, considering our Tooth Fairy magic was a big fat flop days later.
It’s just that, even though we mumble and complain about how ridiculously far we've gone, even though we set ourselves up for failure more times than not, even though it often seems too much (sometimes it is), even though we curse the mom who created the list of 101 Things to Do With Your Elf on a Shelf, sometimes trying to create magic is … well, magic. 
It was to me the night I stayed in my classroom into the wee hours of the night, rigging flaps of butcher paper to the ceiling to build a ship for our Boston Tea Party lesson—an overzealous teacher not yet fully poisoned by benchmark demands, standardized tests and people who thought that the Boston Tea Party was pretty entertaining in itself, so stop trying to make it more. 
Teachers don’t have time for this. Stop purposely adding stress to your job. You're making us other teachers look bad. Kids are going to expect this. They're losing their ability to independently find magic in books.
I get it, I get it. There's a point there. But, you know what? I hope somewhere in the line of competent, benchmark-conscious teachers . . . my kids will have some overzealous ones too — ones who go beyond “Education is magical in itself” and maybe take a page from the student teaching notebook and build the damn ship. 
Good advice, that. As parents, as teachers, as catechists, sometimes we do need to throw caution to the wind and build the damn ship.

And sometimes not.

My kids began one summer vacation by complaining that friends of theirs get A Last Day of School Gift. 

"You get A Last Day of School Gift, too," I told them (gently, I hope). "It's called Summer Vacation."

As for thoughtful, nicely wrapped gifts, those go to the teachers who have worked hard to impart knowledge all year. We have celebrated the end of the year with a trip to the lake, with ice cream, with lunch at our favorite Mexican Restaurant. But Last Day of School Gifts? To quote Kristen: Ain't nobody got time for that.

Sometimes you build the ship; sometimes you don't.

Balance, balance, balance.

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