April 10, 2012

Of Easter Bunnies, Santa, Breakfast Faeries and Magic: letting go and holding on

This past weekend we were at a breaking point.

I knew it was coming.

The week previous had been all about letter writing to faeries, obsessive and breathless.

First Easter Faerie, then Breakfast Faerie.

(Yes, there is a Breakfast Faerie who apparently helps wayward mothers provide yummier morning foods for daughters who do not prefer anything other than toast and fruit. Why won't I allow my daughter to eat toast and fruit for breakfast? Because I am ridic and a control freak, I'm pretty sure. At least that's what the breakfast faerie will eventually write to my kid. When I get that far.)

Next an incredible amount of fussing went into writing letters to, and deciding what to leave out for the Easter Bunny and his co-bunny human guy. (Did you see Hop last year? Uh huh.)

But late in the evening on the night before Easter, my child, my beautiful firstborn, was in tears of epic proportions, sobbing like she'd lost her best friend.

"I can't believe anymore. I want to believe, but I can't. I have lost my belief in magic, mommy, it's all gone."

And more heart-wrenching sobs came, along with inconsolable, gut-churning weeping.

Of course I thought, "Self, you brought this upon yourself. Perpetuating those stories. You did this."

But honestly, as I sat there, as I felt my heart break for her, the other part of me that doesn't have any feelings sat within me, talking me through this. (Days like this, I'm grateful for my dysfunctions.)

"Wow," I thought. "She's taking that step."

Like many modern parents, I momentarily agonised over whether or not I should perpetuate the stories of Father Christmas, of tooth faeries and of an Easter Bunny. I swear I did for at least a half hour.

Ultimately I decided that I had no issues with telling my young children such fantasies existed, though I truly resented perpetuating a male Santa if only because generally women shop, wrap, obsess and lose sleep over gifts to create the magic. You know, in addition to the rest of what makes the holiday awesome, like foods, clean houses, decorations.

It had been coming for a long time -- kindergarten year to be precise. (She's now 9.) Something about sharing a culture with so many people with such diverse beliefs makes it pretty difficult to protect children from those who's parents do not want to perpetuate the "lies" of tradition.

For my child, one particular kid was (and is) especially ruthless. She insists regularly that each of these fantasies is bunk, and cites the fact that she picks out her own very expensive Christmas presents at ToysRUs as an emphatic proof positive Santa is not real.

Sometimes I wish parents would teach their children a bit less hardness, a bit more discretion and respect.

(Whatever. My children know that a penis going into a vagina makes a baby. I think I'll encourage her to educate specific friends -- those who've "educated" her. I happen to know the girl's father is extremely squeamish about this topic. He'll get his.) (Kidding.) (But not about the penis/vagina thing.) (Best method of birth control is knowledge.) (You know, in my humble opinion) (I know, wrong post.)

But I digress.

I have no problem encouraging my young children the magic of believing at their youngest, most gullible age. It does not weigh heavily upon my conscience simply because I want my children to believe in magic, and its existence in our world. On really bad days it is the anchor that pulls me through to the next page in my story.

When my child was calm enough to listen, I whispered some of the most valuable information about magic I know.

"Magic exists."

She looked at me with great doubt, as though worried I would perpetuate the myth further.

I said, "Nine is a good age to come into the understanding that Santa and the Easter Bunny are legends, stories, fun fantasies for small children. It is okay to feel sad to be leaving that age where you can believe in these characters.

"But I do believe in magic and have since I was a child. Magic happens every time we decide to do something right, to make the better choice. When you do this, you create magic that swirls in the air above all of us. Magic is something we make with our actions, our kindness, and even our authentic righteous behaviours."

By the time I put that child back into her bed, my heart was full of the magic of her growing up.

And I sent her to bed with one piece of advice: "Always find opportunities to make magic."

My husband and I stayed up till 2 am, preparing our (very messy) house for Easter morning, creating confections for a Passover meal we would attend Easter night and of course playing EB (good work, Alec!). It was my fourth late night of the week, what with the impulse buy of some 10 lbs of Seville oranges I'd purchased the week before that demanded processing.

My 5 year old awoke before dawn on Easter morn insisting he be granted access to the hunting grounds below. Of course he woke the girls with his howls of protests when I sent him back to bed. The girls quickly joined the chorus and demanded we all repair to the egg zone but I held fast (because despite valiant efforts to the contrary, I was unable to open one eye). I begged my oldest for 20 more minutes of sleep, and suggested she read him a book (or six) to buy me time.

And she did. A Richard Scary tome I threw at his head. For a long time.

When I finally dragged my ass out of bed one glorious hour later, my beautiful firstborn child sidled up quietly beside me. And she whispered:

"Mom. I made magic."

Update: My friend Tracie has written a terrific post that really hits home. Here's why it is so very important to teach children the appropriate (scientific) words for all parts of their body. Check out her post, Say It with Me .... Vagina and join the conversation.

23 comments:

  1. Oh goodness, that was beautiful, tangents and all. I am sitting here with a lump in my throat and a bit of moisture in my eye.
    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful series of moments.

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    1. Thanks, Basinah. I know I could control my tangents more, but I'm not sure I want too.

      I was a bit moved by this post too. (Can you believe it!?)

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  2. She is amazing!! And anyone who can entertain the kids to give you 20 more minutes of sleep is a magic maker, indeed.

    We are those parents mean, realist parents who did not perpetuate the santa myth. But when Katarina was really little and we had the Santa talk, we explained that Santa was a fun thing to play and pretend about, and some parents love the Santa game so much, they tell their kids he is real. And we explained that it was not her job to inform kids that he isn't real. I think the corner of her heart that really believes she is a grown up kind of enjoys playing along with the Santa thing with younger kids while knowing the truth.

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    1. Re: sleep, right?!

      I don't think parents who are realists are mean, I think it is a hard choice to make and we all walk the line. Which is why I followed the Meg Hickerling model of sex education, really, not something upon which other parents are fully on board.

      Thing is, and you say this here, I think that we each of us must teach our children to respect others' opinions, beliefs and rituals, so long as they do not affect politics or human rights. And this kids' parents encourage the opposite. Which means her kid, unlike others who've had conversations with my daughter about the same topic, has harped loudly on the topic for four long years. That's just rude.

      I was very careful to talk about Santa and the like in a way that was not about him being REAL ... because really, I am Santa in our house, so Santa is watching all the time. If anyone of my children ever called me on it (as sort of happened Saturday night), I am extremely comfortable with the line I have chosen to walk.

      And I won't unleash my children's knowledge of sex on other children, as much as I would love to both to spur healthy conversation and as revenge. My children know the word discretion for a reason, and (similar to your beautiful girl) are very capable of using theirs in all kinds of situations.

      But it is tempting. =D

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    2. Hmmm. I don't know who Meg Hickerling is...time for some googling.

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    3. She was the public school health nurse in Vancouver, had a program that was quite straightforward for sex education, even for the youngest kids. She wrote a couple of books: a picture book for young children and also a book about talking about sex with your kids at the different age levels.

      The thing that really moved me in the book written to parents was when she stated that if one is uncomfortable using the proper names for body parts and informing children in a matter-of-fact way about their bodies and the things that happen (you know, while being tuned into a child's reaction and taking cues from it of course) than one might want to re-examine their own maturity level around this topic because kids who are given the facts in a respectful way do not turn out promiscuous or rude or inappropriate. Which made me take a serious look at my own feelings about my body, about talking about sex (even to other grownups like, er, my husband), etc.

      And I easily found myself wanting so I decided to grow up a little. But not too much. Just enough to provide them with information when it seems appropriate. I still try not to talk too much about it anywhere else. It is part of my charm. Ahem.

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    4. That pretty much sounds like the method of sex education I have done with my daughter. (I even wrote about it on the blog a long time ago)

      Real words are good. On so many levels.

      (But I try not to grow up too much, either, because it seems that would suck some of the fun out of life, right?)

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    5. Growing up would totally suck.

      You are probably in agreement as well, that real information about one's body allows one much more power when the word No is required. I've seen it work, seen kids stop a predator by knowing before it went particularly far, and feeling comfortable with telling. So, ya. There's that.

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    6. I'm in SO much agreement with you on that!

      http://www.fromtracie.com/2010/06/say-it-with-mevagina.html
      (I feel totally rude linking in your comment section, but I'm thinking the long winded answer I would give you if I didn't just link would possibly be ruder, so I'm going for it)

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    7. I'm totally down with people linking appropriate and related stuff on my blog. Look! I put it up above!

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    8. =) Thank you! I'm totally blushing now.

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  3. I have tears in my eyes reading this.

    You did well, Karen, Very well.

    And yes, please have your child teach all the other kids about reproduction. Hell, make them some flashcards to bring.

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    1. Bwa ha ha ha! I could tell you stories of them figuring it out that would curl your hair. One day I plan to tell them but not here. Analogue in the ether only, baby!

      Oh and thanks. Very much.

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  4. I'd like to save this and read it again when it's my turn to have this conversation. Absolutely beautiful.

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    1. When it is your turn, you will have things in your heart that you will want to say. You're pretty freaking amazing like that. But if I have planted the seeds ... well, that's pretty thrilling!

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    1. Thank you love. That means a lot to me.

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  6. You just made me tear up! Also am stealing whole idea for my own firstborn.

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    1. It seems to be giving mine an extra sparkle this week, and also it allows me to gently (I hope) point out times when she is doing the opposite of making magic. Which, you know, we all do in our own ways ... or at least I do anyway. *grin*

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