By Beth Vrabel
Emma sat down with me on the couch. “Mom, I have to tell you something. Something real. Something important.”
“OK,” I answered, knowing this something could be anything from the puppy chewed up another of Benny’s diapers to So-and-so at school has stinky breath.
Emma, who just turned 6, folded her hands in her lap. “Fairies are real. I saw one outside, I think. It might live in our garden.”
Maybe the right thing to do would’ve been to gently explain that fairies don’t exist. Maybe I should’ve told her that just because we want things to be real, doesn’t mean they are. Maybe what I did — look her straight in her blueberry eyes and say, “Tell me what it looked like!” — was the worst response possible. But I’m not ready to squelch her anything-is-possible ideals just yet.
Because, to her, magic exists.
It is a truth of childhood, a truth that is taken without skepticism and swallowed whole.
Magic exists in part because we lay the foundation. The Tooth Fairy. Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. We speak of them to our children with wide eyes and even voices. “Is Santa real?” Emma asked this year.
“Do you think he is?” I hedged.
“Then he is.” And that’s the truth.
When Benny, who is 2, crawls on the floor on all fours and pants with his tongue out, he is not pretending to be a puppy. He is a puppy.
When Emma runs and jumps onto our couch, she is flying. Even if it’s just for a moment, she flies and refuses to accept any other explanation.
There is a lifetime ahead of her where reality will weigh her down, where that moment her feet leave the ground will be too fleeting to remember compared to the thud of her landing. Someday, she’ll go to her own garden and maybe only see weeds, not fairy dwellings.
But, for now, magic exists.
This also is a truth of parenting, a truth that whispers in our ears and finds its way to our hearts.
If not magic, then what can explain how listening to Emma read a book to herself enchants me so that I have to stop and listen as Sam-I-Am once again offers his green eggs and ham? How else can I explain how her smile makes a room brighter, her tears make my heart hurt?
How else can I explain how Benny can run full speed to the edge of the stairs and stop just in time, while my scream stays choked in my throat? How can I explain how his laughter cures headaches faster than Tylenol?
Maybe magic isn’t the most accurate word for this parenting truth. Answered prayers, perhaps?
Beth Vrabel lives Pennsylvania with her children, Emma, 6, and Benny, 2. Read more Smart Mama columns here.