Why do I love the herpes of the craft world so much?
Glitter seems to be the pet hate of most parents and you’re most likely scratching your head and wondering how on earth I could be a fan of the stuff. I’m not insane, I can assure you. In fact, my reasons are surprisingly rational.
One look through my social news feeds and newspapers and I’m faced with a daily dose of Ebola, ISIS, domestic abuse, child neglect, animal cruelty, sexism, racism and poverty. All of these things are very real, pervasive and devastating. They make the world seem like a very dark place. But, when I look a little deeper, in between these stories I read about the teenager who used her talent and passion for fashion design to create jackets that transform into sleeping bags for the homeless. I learn about the Israeli company that decided that people who are paraplegic should be able to walk, so they invented bionic exoskeletons and made dreams come true. I hear about the Friday Night Meatballs tradition that’s bringing communities together, I see marriage proposals and I witness expressions of love when love is least expected.
What does this have to do with glitter and fairies, you ask?
As a mum, my job is to teach my children the things they need to know to survive and thrive in this world. A lot is written about toilet training and teaching our kids to ride a bike, how to read and write and add and if/when/how to tackle sex education. Not much is written about teaching our kids to believe in magic.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the single most important skill I can teach my children.
By creating a world for them where they get to experience the magic of fantasy, I’m teaching them to believe in more than just what they see before their eyes. This gives them the ability to open their minds to possibilities outside of their existing reality, which enables them to learn complex concepts. It gives them the impetus to explore the unknown and the drive to be adventurous in their pursuit of knowledge.
Without magic, would the Wright brothers have dared to attempt to realise their dream of flight? Their ability to suspend society’s popular disbelief in this ‘magic’ changed the world enormously. Their imagination and belief in the impossible has gifted my children with the ability to meet their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins across the world. Can you imagine a world without the freedom that fantasy of flights given you?
Without magic, would Edison have dreamed up the lightbulb? Would we have the internet? Was it not the belief in the impossible that led to the telephone, then mobile phones, then the computers we call smartphones that allow us to magically connect with people around the world in a way nobody could have conceived of just fifty years ago?
These things are not magic, of course.
We know how they work and we understand the science and mechanics behind them. What we don’t acknowledge nearly enough is the imagination that sparked these inventions to be realised in the first place. Without the ability to dive into a fantasy world and imagine things that didn’t exist (absurd and impossible ideas at that), many of the realities we enjoy and take for granted would never have ever been invented. Without the power of imagination and fantasy, we’d still be cavemen.
In this life of mine, I’ve learned that if I only acknowledge the concrete, tangible things, I’ll experience a world that is unpleasant, cold and stagnant. Magic is what makes it all turn around. If you look, it’s clear to see. It’s in the vaccine delivered to poverty-stricken children because someone dreamed up the internet and someone else dreamed up social networking and someone else dreamed up a way of using these tools to reach you, who in turn donated money. Magic is in the beautiful rainbow that appears on a rainless day, just as I think about how much I am missing my nephew who passed away. Magic is in the eyes of your child as he tells you that he can do anything. What incredible power we have, as parents, to nurture the growth of our children’s imaginations. What a massive responsibility we have, too, to guard that world of fantasy and stop the world from teaching our kids to only see what is in front of their eyes.
A few weeks ago, Miss M lost a tooth. She is eleven years old and treading that swaying bridge between childhood and adolescence on shaky feet. With tooth in hand, she approached me for a private chat.
“Mum, I want to ask you something”, she quietly said.
“Sure”, I replied.
“I am eleven now and I know that… well, I kinda know that there’s no Tooth Fairy…” She said this with sad eyes and an uneasy tone.
I replied, “I think I know why you look sad. Is it because you don’t want there to be no Tooth Fairy, right?” I realised that, though she knew intellectually that there was no Tooth Fairy, the idea of losing a tooth without the magic of that fictional character was really quite sad.
She nodded. “I know fairies aren’t real but I’m kinda sad because it was fun and exciting when I was little and I believed in that stuff, Mum.”
“Well”, I said, “How about you ask Baby G to help you to write the letter to the Tooth Fairy and then maybe the Tooth Fairy will still visit when you guys are sleeping… you know, for Baby G to believe?” I asked, with a wink.
“Ohhh, cool! Because Baby G is still little and she needs the Tooth Fairy to be real, doesn’t she?” She smiled, glad for a reason to extend the magic just a bit longer.
That afternoon, Miss M supervised as Baby G wrote the sweetest letter to Flossie the Tooth Fairy on her big sister’s behalf. That night, Flossie sprinkled copious amounts of glitter from the front door all the way to the bedroom where both sisters were sleeping. She may have also visited Little Man and dabbed vaseline on to all of their cheeks and sprinkled them with glitter too.
The next morning, three kids came running to show me the gems and jewels and glitter covered coin that the Tooth Fairy had left. Little Man and Baby G’s eyes were filled with wonder. Miss M’s face was filled with happiness. Suddenly, Baby G gasped as she reached up to touch her big sister’s cheek.
“Look! She KISSED you!”
Miss M looked in the mirror and found the vaseline dab, covered with glitter, and smiled.
“Of course she did”, she grinned. Then, winking at me, she told Baby G, “Look at your cheek – she kissed you too!”
I realised then, in their squeals and hugs and all that glitter, magic most certainly was there, even for Miss M. She had learned that there is magic to be found in showing it’s possibility to others.
I’ll never get the glitter out of my carpets and, frankly, I’m fine with that. The world needs more glitter and I’m happy to deliver it by the bucketload.
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This post is the part of my first attempt to take part in BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month). It is going to be a huge challenge for me to publish a post every day of the month of November but I will give it my all. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
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