I have some bizarre form of a stomach virus that only causes pain for about 18-24 hours and then goes its merry way. So last night while hovering around the bathroom just in case I heard a sound. It was a cross between a bird call, a metallic gonging like a Himalayan singing bowl, and the sort of glittering tinkle that is often associated with cartoon fairies. Being indisposed I was unable to investigate, but it was such a magical sound that I thought, “Some kid must be having a marvelous adventure. I hope it’s one of mine.” Yes, these are the sorts of thoughts I have while ill. I am totally willing to entertain the possibility that it was hallucinated.
But of course this thought led me to a second, “I wonder what Mum Pevensie, of the Chronicles of Narnia, would have thought of her children’s great romp in the wardrobe.”
I mean, mom and eventually dad were backdrop characters to the world of Narnia, though never really explored. Did she notice when her children returned to London from the country that Peter was significantly more self possessed, but also more willful, like an adult accustomed to making his own choices? Did she pick up on Susan’s mature demureness? Edmund’s new reverence? Lucy’s confidence? Did the transformation of years of experience in Narnia get chalked up to, “Well, aren’t they just growing in leaps and bounds?”
But how often to we as parents dismiss our children’s development as a matter of course, that inevitable progression that we all go through. How often do we blithely go about our days, maybe making note of a new trait, and then dismiss it without much thought at all?
I’m not suggesting that our kids are taking magical journeys behind our backs and we aren’t noticing. I’m saying we have an opportunity to celebrate small miracles in our daily parental slog.
When a three year old says, “No, I do it myself!” or a nine year old rolls their eyes at a request for the first time we have a choice– frustration or wonder. I’m not good at making this choice, though the above three year old was one such time. I too often chose to plant my feet in my own path without taking advantage of the vista before me. I have a view of my own childhood experiences and I can use that to marvel at how far I have come. I can dispense loving advice and recognition when those chances come.
Or I can be Chihiro’s parents from that bit of Studio Ghibli brilliance, Spirited Away. She blossoms in the days of adversity she experiences, and they don’t even notice. Their blindness not only gets them into trouble, but it keeps them from seeing the growth in their own daughter. As a kid watching such a movie I’m not sure I even noticed how dumb and self absorbed they were; to me they were just parents. Now as a parent I wonder what they could have been thinking and how does your kid go from, “I don’t want to move, I hate all of this,” to someone poised and ready to meet the new challenges that will come her way. She is in a sense a different person and her parents can’t even tell.
I wonder, as a mom of six, how often my kids undergo such metamorphosis and I don’t notice. How many times do I have the blinders of daily responsibility on so tight I cannot see the magic of my growing kids before me? Do I know them well enough to sense the changes coming or at least recognize them when they do?
I think from now on whenever I hear a magical, unplaceable sound I will hope it means my babies are experiencing an enchantment, and make a point of celebrating their moments of developmental transformation as the evidence of the fantastic they are. If I can increase my ratio of wonder to frustration perhaps this stupid virus and the attendant headache will be worth a little something.