“We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated out of our souls. Churched out. Spanked out. Washed out and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth. And because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves”
Robert McCammon, Boy’s Life
I have shamelessly pinched this quote from the feed of someone I follow on Instagram (Elizabeth from @beatriceandfinch – go follow her by the way, because her words are as beautiful as her wondrous images) simply because it really spoke to me and I kind of fell in love with it a little bit.
Each of my girls has an aspect of me in her: Ella; the rule-follower, the thinker, the writer. Mimi; the rule-breaker, the wild-child, the free-spirit. And Lola; the Good Samaritan, the feeler, the nurturer. As I grew up I did everything I was told, I followed all the rules, I became responsible. I tried to be kind to everyone, to keep everyone happy, to make everyone happy, not realising that I was making myself unhappy in the process. The extent of my ‘wildness’ was getting my belly-button pierced at seventeen. I didn’t let out my free spirit or break any rules. I didn’t act out – instead I took it all inwards and nearly self-destructed in the process.
I’m very aware of my tendency to demand exceptional behaviour from my girls. I forget that they have grumpy days and off days and days where they just don’t feel like doing as they’re told. As adults we have them so of course its ok for them to have them too. I know I come down hard on them and try and control them and even as I’m doing it I’m asking myself why on earth I’m doing it. Why am I squashing their spirits? Why am I teaching them that they shouldn’t answer back or question what they’re being told when actually, that’s exactly what they SHOULD be doing. I want them to grow up to be strong, independent, feisty young women who don’t just accept things the way they are but challenge themselves to make changes to what’s always been.
A couple of weekends ago we went for a walk in the woods, introducing the husband and the teenager to our new favourite place. We climbed trees as high as we could get (including me!). Then we found a rope swing over the river and played there for ages, squeals of delight echoing through the air. I hope my girls never, ever lose that. I’ve lost a lot of it over the years – that joyful freedom of just letting go. I’ve got way too serious and I think I’ve almost forgottton how to have fun. I need to work on getting that back again.
I love these images of my little tribe because they capture them so perfectly – carefree and having fun. Exactly the way childhood should be. Exactly the way life should be.
I hope that in the years that come, when they’re all grown up and perhaps have little tribes and families of their own, they look back at these photos and remember. Remember the fun we had, they joy they experienced, the freedom they felt, the risks they took, the challenges they overcame and the love they were surrounded by.