Today’s post is dedicated to my children, Benji and Ollie, who have endured six weeks of total lockdown in Spain. They haven’t been able to go any further than the garden. They’ve been absolute stars of the lockdown show. They’ve had to make their own magic, with a little help from mum and dad of course. Tomorrow they will be allowed beyond the bounds of the garden for the first time in six weeks. For now I want to say a little about how we’ve tried to bring the magic home…
Childhood is a magical time: a time when we believe in things we forget how to believe when we are older. It’s a time of infinite possibilities, which stretch out in front of us, seemingly forever. Then somewhat brutally and abruptly, it ends. We finally know why people kept telling us these were ‘the best days of our life.’ Perhaps we appreciate it too late. But we can still remember, and try to understand the magical world inhabited by our children.
The magic of childhood is the magic of imagination. As kids, my friends and I would explore magical lands, turning the school field into some fairytale kingdom which we had to navigate in our invented game ‘the Quest of Zones.’ It’s the kind of magic I try to tap into when I’m writing fiction. The inspiration for my first novel came from a dream. This dreamworld is perhaps more real for children than the everyday world of household chores and homework, and remembering this can help us as parents, particularly during this difficult time.
Turn the Magic on
I didn’t realise before I became a parent that I would be granted the immense privilege of becoming a magician. Not that I’m a parenting guru by any means: my kids spend as much time plugged into devices at the moment as any average child I would imagine…maybe even more (guilty parent admission #1.) But when I have the time and energy, I do my best to try and work with the ready magic of their imagination.
I first realised I had magical powers the night before Benji’s 5th Christmas. Using a humble bag of flour and treading carefully, I left a trail of Santa footprints from the chimney to the tree. The next morning, the effects of the magic could be seen in the sunshine of Benji’s enchanted face. The following Christmas, Benji not only wrote a letter to Santa, he made presents for Santa and all of his elves. Now his baby teeth have started to fall out at regular intervals, so I get to do my stint as the tooth fairy every few months as well! There’s something magical in being able to create that magic for your children.
Feed their imagination
As I already said, I’m a far-from-perfect parent. I tend to shy away from craft related activities as the mess causes me too much stress (guilty parent admission #2.) But I do like to bake with my children, especially Benji, now he’s a bit older and he can manage to bake without spilling ingredients all over the place. There is, however another activity we’ve discovered which doesn’t involve too much mess or chaos: we play ‘Knightmare.’
Children of the 1980s who grew up in the UK may remember this classic series. Suffice to say it was a firm favourite with me at Benji’s age (7), and thanks to the magic of YouTube, we’ve been able to re-live the TV nostalgia and re-create the game in our apartment. The objective is to negotiate your way through a dungeon, blindfolded and aided by teammates who can see what you are doing. So we blindfolded Benji and populated our home with wizards, witches, goblins and monsters (the last courtesy of his younger brother, Ollie (2.5)!) He absolutely loved solving the quest and conquering the dungeon. And all it took was a little imagination and some everyday household objects.
As for monsters, goblins and ghouls – there seems to be a tendency nowadays to try to avoid frightening our children. Well I certainly don’t want to traumatise them. But I remember as a child that I actually enjoyed being a little scared: that’s why I loved ‘Knightmare’ so much: it’s part of our journey to adulthood, learning to conquer our fears and make the most of every magic moment. As Treguard the dungeon master would say ‘After all, it’s only a game…isn’t it?
To all the locked-down parents out there: may the magic be with you.