Yesterday I read the girls "You're a Little Kid With a Big Heart" by Bernard Waber. It is a story about a girl named Octavia Blisswink, who finds a kite stuck in a tree. The kite promises to grant Octavia a wish in return for her rescuing it from the tree's branches. Octavia wishes she was "old enough to decide what I want to do-or not to do." The kite grants her the wish, and immediately Octavia is transformed into a 39 year old woman!
I enjoyed this story for a number of reasons. For the girls it was a great cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for and remembering not to rush growing up and to enjoy childhood etc. But, I found myself experiencing many different thoughts and feelings throughout our reading.
In the story Octavia quickly realizes that being an adult isn't everything she thought it would be, and she misses being a child. She goes to an empty playground one evening and swings on the swings, until "a sudden chill in the air reminds her she is no longer a child." She tries to play hopscotch with her old friends, but they decide she is too old. She longs for her childhood to be returned to her.
I often find myself wishing the same thing, and every now and then I will have a moment like Octavia did on the swings, where I feel just like a child again, and then something will remind me that I am not. I find that trying to recapture the feelings of childhood as an adult is like trying to pass into a different dimension. And yet it still happens now and then. When it happens I am always filled with joyful nostalgia and at the same time sadness. Usually it happens when I am doing something I did often as a child like biking or swimming, or during a change of the seasons when familiar smells and sights return. The smell of a hot track in the spring and fresh cut grass, jellybeans in plastic eggs or pine needles on a Christmas tree, the rubbery smell of a trampoline, a life-jacket or towel after a long day at the beach, a whiff of my Mom's or Dad's perfume or cologne when I visit, the chance to play a game with the girls that I played as a child....these things can open the door to those wonderful memories of childhood when time didn't seem to exist. I think that none of us ever really wish to grow up, we just have too, and we are all really just "little kids" with "big hearts." This story reminded me just how precious and special the time of childhood is.
And more importantly, it reminds me that I have been given a responsibility much like the kite in my own daughters lives. At the end of the story Octavia finds the kite once again stuck in a tree and she demands "Now you give me back my childhood! Immediately!"
As a parent I have the power to provide my girls with a childhood filled with the joys of Octavia's world: "games, rocking chairs, bedtime kisses, and snoopy toothbrushes." A childhood where the demands of adulthood don't press on them. Or, I can be like the kite, and steal their childhood from them by asking them to grow up to soon. And, I have to admit, there have been times when I have been guilty of or tempted to push too hard or hurry things along, and do just this.
Like right now our big challenge is Alaina is still wetting her diapers at night, and she sucks her thumb constantly, and it is hard not to criticize her. When I see her sucking her thumb I think "When is she just going to grow up!" And yet I know she won't suck her thumb or wet the bed forever and that this time will pass by quicker than I could imagine.
Now when I have thoughts like this I will remind myself of Octavia's sadness and her mother's reaction when her daughter came home as a 39 year old....
"I want my little girl back! she cried again and again."
P.S. If you read this book to your family and enjoyed it, then I would also recommend reading "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" by William Steig and "Barney Bipple's Magic Dandelions" by Carol Chapman.