How to Ensure Your Kids Have an (un)Magical Childhood

(Stupid Blogger disabled my comments, so here’s a re-post of today’s earlier post. I’m leaving you for WordPress, Blogger)

Have you been seeing those heartwarming posts floating around the internets these past couple weeks about childhood and magic and making moments count? Did you recently create a new Pinterest board specifically for crafts to do on indoor high pollen count odd numbered Thursdays? Do you constantly feel pressured via social media, your peers in the carpool pickup line, and whatever crappy article you’ve most recently scanned on HuffPo to be a best friend and parent?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

I’m here to help you discover how you, too, can ensure that your child has the most unremarkable, mundane, tedious and pedestrian latency period possible*. Plus, craft activities.

Step 1: 

Remove all forms of digital entertainment from their willing paws. Put passwords on all your devices and make up a truly ogre-caliber rule that only Mommy or Daddy can unlock the magic of media for them. When they beg for an episode of Wonder Pets at 3 pm on a Tuesday, smile cruelly and send them outside to their horrific cage of a backyard (it’s fenced, after all. Oh the humanity.) and sweetly suggest they dig in the sandbox with their little brother. (The sandbox, remember, is just an area of available dirt in the side of the yard you’ve dumped half a bag of sand in, and it’s filled with broken matchbox cars and metal measuring cups. There is no water table in sight. You are one cruel s.o.b.)

Step 2: 

Speaking of little brothers…Make sure you give your child a sibling long before the socially-acceptable 3 year mark. In fact, have them so close together that they are regularly asked if they are twins. Make them share clothing with their younger sibling, ensuring that neither child every looks perfectly put together in that convenient ‘in between’ size that kinda sorta fits them both. Make them share a room, and when one insists on moaning himself to sleep for the better part of 20 minutes every night, tell the offended party that it’s character building, and to pretend the noise is whales singing deep, deep in the ocean. Crank up the ocean effect on the sound machine just for good measure.

Step 3: 

Never take them to a pay-as-you-visit indoor child amusement area. (I’m looking at you, Monkey Business.) If you do, they’ll realize that the soft play place at the swanky mall on the other side of town is actually just a larger than life petri dish swarming with other pedestrian children. And bacteria. Encourage them to mingle with the commoners to build natural herd immunity and exchange helpful microbes which foster each other’s unique digestive flora.

Step 4: 

Neglect to plan any kind of meaningful non-Christmas holiday celebration until the day before said event, or better yet, the morning of. Frantically cut out misshapen shamrocks from sheets of plain computer paper while giving an unintelligible explanation of the Trinity and then mix frozen spinach into their smoothies because vitamins. And St. Patrick! Try not to weep when you hear your 3-year-old telling his aunt that Easter means “the giant bunny comes and wrecks your house and you eat chocolate and maybe get a slinky.” Resolve to find a slinky for his Easter basket.

Step 5:

Enroll them in zero extracurricular activities. Forgo any attempts at baby sign language for your hearing child. Act excited when your preschooler’s teacher assures you during a mid-year ‘checkup’ conference that they are learning academics in the classroom in addition to control of bodily fluids, but wonder to yourself if numbers really matter. Make a mental note to ask your kid to count to 10. Feign interest when your girlfriend casually mentions soccer practice or swim lessons, but mentally resolve to refrain from said activities for as long as socially acceptable. Pour yourself a glass of wine while your little darling is ‘snorkeling’ in the bathtub at 4pm and toast your good sense because hey, you’ve got nowhere to drive.

Step 6:

Step 6: Say no to your children. Often. Sometimes it will be for their own good, but sometimes it will just be an exercise in character building, because honestly Mom, would it kill you to serve yogurt and smiley face pancakes for dinner once in a while? Yes, yes it would. Eat your chicken. When they ask you to read the 14th book of the afternoon, cruelly refuse and then offer them a bottle of non-toxic windex and a dishrag and invite them into the magical world of housework.

Step 7: 

Throw boring birthday parties filled with friends, family, and some balloons and cake. Oh, wait, that’s an awesome birthday party…but note, there are no buntings, there are mismatched paper plates and plastic cutlery in use, and the adults are drinking alcoholic beverages and mingling instead of leading the group in guided multi-sensory games and activities. There may be a piñata, but you can bet that somebody has snuck the good chocolate out of it already. The cake may or may not be homemade, but it is fashioned in the unimaginative shape of a sheet, and the frosting is runny. It tastes amazing. The poor children are left to their own devices for the remainder of the festivities, and there is no commemorative slideshow in sight.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, you’re well on your way to ensuring that your little darling has the least magical childhood imaginable!* But on the plus side, he or she will probably develop a rich imagination of their own as an escape mechanism.

(Off to Jen’s for more things that come in lists of 7)

*Magical childhoods are overrated. How about getting out of the way and letting childhood work its own magic.


  • Laura Pearl

    I LOVE THIS POST! Every young parent should read it! I am sometimes very grateful that our boys are grown, and that when we were raising them there were still plenty of people who threw “boring” birthday parties like you describe here (guilty!), made their kids share bedrooms (guilty again!), and dressed them like adorable ragamuffins (yes, guilty of that, too). All this perfection and over-the-top celebrating can’t be good for kids. And there seems to be more pressure as far as that goes now than there was in the 80’s and 90’s when my guys were little.

    And stay strong in your efforts to keep your kids out of organized activities and sports as long as possible!! I think any 4-year-old would have a lot more fun snorkeling in the tub than jumping in the car to go to soccer practice. We started some of the sports stuff earlier than we should have, and if there’s one thing I could go back and change now, that would be it.

    I applaud you!

  • whenmomgrowsup

    FAB-U-LOUS!!! Wish I would have followed this list earlier (electronics will be the death of me…but I am just as guilty a the kids :-/ ). But as a mom of 6 ages 17, 17, 13, 7, 4, and 3, I TOTALLY agree with just about everything…especially the extracurriculars. I am right there with you on the holidays and birthday parties. My youngest kids have never even been to a birthday party (other than our little family parties which consist of a Duncan Hines cake…or Betty Crocker, whichever was on sale, a meager pile of presents that were bought 6 hours before and wrapped 30 minutes before, and the blowing out of candles that I stole from the old advent wreath because I forgot to buy birthday candles)…go ahead…call Child Protective Services.

    Great post…can’t wait to read more of your writing!

  • Sarah

    Have you read Anthony Esolen’s book on the topic. 10 ways to ruin your child’s imagination (or something like that). Check it out- he has a tongue in cheek style I think you would appreciate.

  • mary

    good list.

    Today I was skimming an issue of Parent’s mag with the headline, “best. party. ever.” When I read the statistic that something like 60% of parents admitted to spending $200 or more on their child’s last birthday, my eyes rolled so hard, I almost fell over. I’m thankful my oldest has a summer birthday!

  • Suzanne Winter

    hahah – this is GREAT!!!! With 3 kids 13 months apart (one set of twins), my kids have to share clothes, and a room, and have to sleep through screaming, and they have to play outside at the park, and while I do occasionally make pancakes for dinner (hey – they are easy and yummy), my kids have to eat their veggies and love fruit. I’m not doing it perfectly… and some days I need a show to escape, but they are alive, breathing, and nothing is currently broken – so we’re doing GREAT!

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