Why Children Need Magic

Full disclosure, I had no intention of being a parent. My sisters have wonderful kids, I visited extremely often, made a point of spending lots of quality time with them, and I found that very satisfying. Besides, I had a loving and devoted Beagle at home.

Then, just before my 40th birthday, my daughter came along.

My friends and family had told me that pets and kids were totally different experiences, and boy were they ever right. When the doctor presented me my seconds-old daughter for the first time it was like he had plucked the heart from my chest, wrapped it in a blanket and handed it to me. The most powerful and immersive love affair of my life had officially begun.

Fortunately, I had (have) great parents. On Dad’s side I had incredibly nurturing and attentive people who loved and cared about me. My grandparents, Aunt Fern, and my cousin Diane (who closer to my dad’s age), in particular, instilled in me a love of music, camping, the mountains, nature walks and games. When I was little my dad owned a children’s book store, and delighted in reading amazing stories to me in crazy voices. He also took me on frequent trips to The Enchanted Forest outside Salem, Oregon, where many of those stories came to life AND…wait for it…there was a haunted house!!! On Mom’s side my grandmother also loved reading children’s books to me and my amazing cousins (all of us close in age), my grandfather taught me about gardening, my mom was all about fantasy movies and filled my imagination with talking animals, musicals and Happily Ever Afters. She also took me to see Star Wars for the first time, something that changed my life forever. As with Dad’s side, I was taught to love the mountains – North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, which are almost as beautiful as Oregon’s Cascades.

As it turns out, I really have needed those stories. I have needed to be able to fall back on the yellow-brick road, Neverland, the Hundred-Acre Wood, Bert’s and Mary Poppins’ sidewalk chalk world, and in particular, the the most important lesson Obi-Wan taught Luke Skywalker: many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. I have needed this foundation because adulting is challenging, it presents seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and invites, nay dares, us to lose hope. Those fantasy stories and imaginary heroes have often given me the strength to keep going.

I have spent much of my adult life as a teacher. It was a means to an end when I was building a very successful NBA media career and since the birth of my daughter it has become the best way for me to be her everything. The NBA schedule certainly wasn’t favorable in that regard. The thing is, as a teacher you encounter far too many children who were not raised in Happily Ever After worlds. Their parents did not dote on them, they didn’t take them to movies or read books to them, and they have not seen America’s purple mountain majesties or delighted in the simple pleasure of singing along to classic musicals. They have lived lives of abuse, neglect or even severe handicaps brought on by their mother’s behavioral issues. In short, they have been handed lives that will forever be uphill climbs, often through blizzards and avalanches they had no hand in creating.

Sometimes teachers can form partnerships with parents in these situations, and together they can vastly improve the quality of life and future prospects of children. Far too often, however, parents see schools as a dumping ground and don’t welcome the feedback or recommendations of trained experts in fostering growth and development of kids. Sometimes they are downright combative about it! The victims, then, are the children…and the teachers who sometimes feel completely helpless to intervene.

As a teacher I have some power to transform kids, but my best chance to do that is with my own daughter. I have immersed her in those same stories my parents shared with me, we have also reveled in the magic of Harry Potter, and her Star Wars phase was my absolute favorite. She held regular lightsaber training classes in our garage for the neighborhood kids and she positively wore out her Rey Skywalker costume. Naturally I had to pick up a Kylo Ren costume, but strictly in the name of being a good parent, you understand. Every hero needs a villain to fight.

In my daughter’s world, the good guy almost always wins, even if he/she gets a little battered and bruised along the way. I know the world is coming for her, and I know she’s going to get beaten up by life, but it hasn’t happened yet. My hope is that when it happens she can fall back on Disney World, Universal Studios, Star Wars, Hermione Granger, lightsaber duels in the garage and the undying, unconditional love of her family to help her overcome those challenges.


2 thoughts on “Why Children Need Magic”

  1. “My hope is that when it happens she can fall back on Disney World, Universal Studios, Star Wars, Hermione Granger, lightsaber duels in the garage and the undying, unconditional love of her family to help her overcome those challenges.”
    My thinking is she will be fine, because of you and her family, not so mush the fantasy of fables, fairy tales, and Hollywood. Cheers.


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