“Mom, you can get rid of all that stuff.” Boy Wonder said as he pointed to a giant box of toys he’d spent years collecting.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yeah, that stuff’s for kids.”
And just like that, my tween closed the door on his childhood without so much as a nostalgic look back. As he continued purging every last youthful reminder from his bedroom, heaviness began to fill my heart. I’ve felt this heartache before — the time he walked 400 feet ahead so no one would dare suspect he had a mother, the declaration that everything he loved just six short months earlier was now for “babies,” the goodbye hugs he suddenly had no interest in giving. These momentary reminders of adolescence surely stung, but they didn’t hurt half as much as the realization that this was more than just a phase. My son was growing up and inching closer with each passing day to the person he’s destined to become.
Sure, Boy Wonder will always be my baby, but the eyes of the world are beginning to see him differently. He senses it and he’s excited by it and by golly, he should be! But carelessly boxing up his childhood as if to suggest it never happened would be an incredible disservice to his character. He may not know it yet, but the spiritual souvenirs of his youth — magic, possibility, creativity, imagination, freedom — are the very treasures that will ensure his happiness throughout adulthood. But how could I show him that growing up didn’t have to mean leaving the best parts of his spirit behind? Simple, by incorporating magic into our every day.
With a little imagination and optimistic heart, I discovered five ways to recapture the magic of childhood with my tween.
1. Be the historian of your family.
Long before cameras lived in the palms of our hands, I toted around a camera for the sole purpose of documenting Boy Wonder. I took pictures of everything. I held on to favorite baby blankets and lovies. I videotaped. I saved preschool artwork and school papers. I didn’t stop at images and tangible mementos either; I recorded memories in my private journals, told stories through blog posts, and continue sharing his story through my maternal eyes. Boy Wonder may not remember every moment or memento, but his childhood is available for reminiscing whenever he needs a boost of homespun comfort.
So, snap those pics, save those important items, and make regular dates with your growing child to revisit precious memories. Take field trips to your child’s preschool, your family’s first house, or the park where your child once liked to play. Keep in touch with the places and people who helped write the story of your child’s life. There’s magic in the memories.
2. Play every chance you can.
Given the opportunity, Boy Wonder would game himself into solitary oblivion without a single memory to show for it. So we play. We play a lot. We ride bikes, we play chess, we game, we DIY, we vacation, and we go on hikes that he says he hates but secretly loves. We do these things for the experience, the opportunity to create, and the freedom they bring. Long after he hangs up his bike for good, he’ll remember the sound of the wind rushing through his ears as he raced his brother home. He’ll look down at the giant scar on his elbow and remember the freedom he felt mere moments before taking that tumble. But most of all, he’ll remember the togetherness that feels like home.
3. Celebrate in grand style.
When Boy Wonder swore off Halloween because he was simply “too old,” I knew he was in need of a heavy dose of magic. Leave it to Disneyland Resort to host a Halloween party so rockin’, so magical, and so frightfully fun that he couldn’t help but feel like a kid again. From pirate transformations, incredible Halloween treats, and awesome dance parties, to favorite rides transformed for the holiday, Mickey’s Halloween Party has it all.
Make no mistake; Boy Wonder wasn’t the only one feeling like a kid again. My husband and I noshed on enough pumpkin seed brittle, pumpkin cheesecake, and tropical habanero punch between the Halloween Screams fireworks spectacular and Mickey’s Costume Party cavalcade to prove that yep, we’re both still kids at heart! And lemme tell you, when your too-cool tween stops to hug you tight and thank you for an experience as special as this one, your heart pretty much bursts wide open. Thank you, Mickey’s Halloween Party, for the epic smiles and blissful memories.
4. Laugh. At everything. Often.
Never underestimate the power of silly when it comes to your tween. They might act mature, but they’re always down for a hearty laugh. Crack jokes, watch a funny movie, or act like a fool just for a laugh. Laughter has the power to diffuse tough tween situations and soften that tough exterior.
5. Act like a kid. (You know you want to!)
While we as parents serve as responsible models of what adulthood looks like, let us never forget we have a responsibility to prove to our kids they’re never too old to have fun. Allow your child to see you work hard and play hard! When we stop in the name of play, we’re giving our children permission to do the same.