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Stop Shaming Me for Trying to Make My Kid's Childhood Magical

Photograph by Leah Campbell

A few weeks ago, I sat rigid on my bed at 1:55 a.m., repeatedly hitting refresh on my computer. My goal was clear: At exactly 2 a.m. Alaska time (6 a.m. ET), I would be able to make reservations 180 days in advance for our upcoming trip to Disney World.

It’s a trip I’ve spent two years saving for. One I’ve been planning since pretty much the day my daughter was born. My daughter would celebrate her fifth birthday at the Magic Kingdom, a near-5,000-mile trek from the place we call home.

Yes, the reservations are that competitive. And yes, when the time came, I anxiously worked my way through each and every one of those reservations I had arduously mapped out for our eight-day itinerary. Dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table on my daughter’s birthday. Seats at the Fireworks Dessert Party on a terrace above the crowds, so my sensory-sensitive girl can hopefully better enjoy the show. An appointment at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to turn my daughter into an actual princess. And about 15 other dining and experience reservations that I had spent weeks researching.

At 4 a.m., I finally closed my computer, satisfied with achieving near-perfection on my pre-planned itinerary and wondering how I was possibly going to contain my excitement over the next six months of anticipation until I can surprise my girl with this trip of a lifetime.

It’s. Going. To. Be. Magical.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am totally that mom who tends to go overboard on the memories. While I pride myself on being a minimalist who doesn’t go big on gift-giving, I do have about 30 traditions and activities I hold dear as the holidays approach. I plan elaborate celebrations for my daughter’s birthday and her annual adoption-day anniversary. I go all out when the fair comes to town and any other time there is some unique or cool local event. And I plan new and exciting things for us to do almost every weekend we’re home.

I’m not that mom who gives in to her child’s every whim when it comes to purchasing toys and things. Nor am I the Pinterest mom who throws perfectly decorated parties, or the gourmet mom who whips up delicious meals every night. But I am the mom who thrives on sharing experiences with my girl, and I do everything I can to create those memories for us both.

I want my daughter to have a childhood full of magic.

For those of us who are over-the-top mamas, I beg you to recognize that the magic we create has nothing to do with you.

Of course, if you’ve spent much time on the internet, you’ve seen plenty of discussions blasting moms like me. There are those who would claim I’m trying too hard to force a perfect childhood. That I’m forgetting “the good ol’ days” when moms shoved their kids out back doors in the morning and didn’t welcome them home again until dinnertime. I’d be accused of raising a snowflake, or a child who will grow to be entitled and heartbroken when the world isn’t handed to her on the same silver platter her mother worked so hard to provide growing up.

You know what I have to say to that? My daughter was adopted at birth. From her first day of life, she faced a loss that she will carry with her for the rest of her days. Today, she is being raised by a single mother (me) and deals with a diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which means that every week she receives a shot of a chemo drug just so that she can continue walking like a healthy child her age. She has faced a handful of other challenges that I don’t discuss publicly, because that’s her story and not mine, but suffice it to say: This child is no snowflake. She is a warrior.

And she deserves every ounce of magic she can get.

But you know what? Even if all of that weren’t the case, this is still probably the mother I would be. And there are probably 100 things about me and my history that contribute to that fact. You could point to my own childhood, which wasn’t nearly as idyllic as moms today seem to want to paint the “good ol’ days” of parenting to be. Or infertility, which threatened to take away this dream of motherhood I have had since I was a little girl. Maybe it’s that I’m a single mother, and that I do feel the weight of that (of not wanting my daughter to suffer in the absence of a father she’s never had) in my desire to go above and beyond.

But you know what I think it is? I think it’s simply that I like living my life with a bit of magic as well.

I truly enjoy everything I do to make my daughter’s childhood a little more special. I thrive off the planning and executing. I get a thrill like no other when I see her face light up in those moments. And I cherish those memories, and the pictures they produce, in a way I could never even really put into words.

It won’t be long before my daughter is past this stage of innocence, moved into the years of not wanting much to do with her mother at all. So, you know what? I’m going to embrace this time while I can.

I’m going to enjoy the magic while it lasts.

If the idea of all that sounds exhausting to you, and you're overwhelmed simply by reading about all the work I put into creating this magic, that’s fine! I have no doubt your children are still happy and loved, and that their childhoods consist of magic even if you’re not intentionally creating it.

I don’t believe there is any “right" way to mom and I support mamas approaching these years as they see fit. I certainly don’t think every child needs a Disney vacation for their fifth birthday—or ever, for that matter.

But for those of us who are over-the-top mamas, I beg you to recognize that the magic we create has nothing to do with you. It’s not a reflection on you or your parenting skills. And it’s not something we’re boasting about to make you feel inferior.

It’s just something we truly enjoy.

So, maybe give us a break and let us have our magic. You can always just look the other way, if it doesn’t suit your idea of what parenting should be.

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