The Magic of Childhood

My daughter is 5 and she 100% believes in fairies. She KNOWS that Santa is real. She will tell you that unicorns live on rainbows and that you can ride on clouds across the sky.

I absolutely envy her. The world around her is full of magic – imagine what living each day must be like, secure in that knowledge! This is absolutely what childhood is about mamas; this is the stuff that separates them from us, the stuff that makes children so incredible, the stuff we never want them to have to let go of.

Today we went for a walk down the end of our road, as we do regularly. We live in a cul de sac and we stroll the loop for the express purpose of walking past the several dogs who live there. We say hello to them (because she insists on it) and this time, outside “barking dog’s” house, we found a butterfly lying on the ground. She notices it right away.

“It’s a Monarch” she tells me. She does, of course, know everything. Despite my insistence that it was just ‘sleeping’ on the ground, this girl is no fool; she saw it’s ripped wing and told me the butterfly was very injured and we had to save it at all costs. Her face was divine, she really wanted to save that dead butterfly.

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So, thinking on my feet (and without a shred of hesitation) I picked it up and told her we’d put it in the bushes and the fairies would come and take it to the animal hospital, where they’d fix the butterfly’s wing and look after it until it was strong enough to fly away. She didn’t even have to think about it, she KNEW the fairies would come and take the butterfly to the animal hospital just like she knew the sky was blue. So she tenderly placed the (dead, remember) butterfly in the bushes and we continued our walk.

Later that day we were playing outside and a monarch butterfly flew past. “MUM!” she exclaimed with such joy; “the fairies fixed the butterfly!”. She was so excited she couldn’t stop pointing at it and laughing in disbelief and telling me again and again what had happened. “It’s fixed mum, they fixed the butterfly!” You couldn’t have paid me any amount of money to tell that beautiful little girl that there is more than one monarch butterfly in the whole world. I wouldn’t have done it. She was, without a doubt, the happiest child that has ever lived.

But in her moment of rapture, all I could feel was fear. It surprised me actually, coming completely unbidden; a sting, a knot in my gut as I watched my firstborn entirely absorbed in a magic that didn’t exist outside her imagination. A fear for the reality she would inevitably discover as she got older; that the world wasn’t in fact filled with kind talking animals and that pixie dust couldn’t fix anything. Rather it was populated with people who would steal her lunch out of her school bag or hurt her just because she was smaller than them. People who would tease her, lie to her, force her, unfriend her. That some boy some day would break her heart, that she would (as a woman) spend a large portion of her life comparing herself to others and thinking she wasn’t good enough. She spontaneously hugged me then, because she couldn’t contain her wonder at the butterfly, and it all just didn’t seem fair; I want to keep her in that magical fairy land of hers as long as I can. I wish with all my heart that I believed in ANYTHING as much as she believes in EVERYTHING.

I wonder when it will come. The unbelieving. And if it will be everything at once or bits at a time. I could potentially cope with bits. For now though, I’m doing everything I can to keep the magic alive – she’s only 5 after all – because one day the fairies will pack up their things from the fairy houses she made them, climb on the backs of unicorns and fly away over the rainbow. And they’ll never come back for her.

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