“If you see the magic in a fairy tale, you can face the future.”
I have recently returned with my family from our inaugural trip ‘Around the World’. We entitled it the Aiono Adventure 2013 and it was a much anticipated and focused event for all of the months leading up to our departure. We, as a family of five, travelled for a month to Los Angeles, Washington DC, Toronto, London, France and Hong Kong. Many thought we were utterly insane even considering this level of travel with kids in tow, let alone with one just-turned-4 year old who struggles on a good day to be seated for any length of time. The preventative manager in me began planning for every eventual occurrence. I had wrist labels for lost children. I had a bound activity book tailor made for each child on the plane to ensure their engagement and quiet contemplation. And when that had worn off I had the iPad loaded with movies, tv programmes, talking books and educational apps. I was prepared to circumnavigate the earth with my rambunctious kids in tow. And we were going to get our money’s worth……they were going to see the world!
So when people ask me now what was the most memorable moment of our Adventure, or the highlight, I surprise even myself with what that actually is. We saw and experienced the most amazing things, such as fireworks over Niagara Falls and pain au chocolat beside the Eiffel Tower. We saw and experienced the most simple and humbling of things, such as accepting the kindness of family and friends in accommodation and sightseeing tours. We were taught to appreciate how to slow down and to truly see things that, if we were the locals in the town, we may not necessarily appreciate. We also came to learn a whole lot more about ourselves and how we exist with each other. The moments when we are most tired and hungry through to the moments of ridiculous joy.
So what was the most memorable moment of all for me on our amazing Adventure? The epiphany that occurred to me 3 days into our travel about who my 6 year old daughter truly is. And that, somehow despite all I uphold and value, I had lost touch with the magic that we had once worked so hard to create for her. Day 3 of our adventure involved a second day exploring all that Disneyland has to offer in Los Angeles. We were off to explore California Adventureland after bumbling our way around Disney Park the day before. After a disastrous experience on the Matterhorn ride, we were all becoming a little less tolerant of my daughter who was being very dramatic when it came to anything ‘scary’. We kept reminding her that she was almost 7 and that she had nothing to be afraid of. We considered that she should be able to manage the bigger rides …… her height certainly wasn’t the issue. And it wasn’t like we were putting her into the screaming tower or haunted-type attractions. But it was when the Ferris wheel at Paradise Pier caused more anxious anticipation in the line my tolerance became incredibly thin. After all, what really was the problem….right?
And then we stopped to notice the lack of a queue outside the Little Mermaid ride. So we rushed in, relieved to not have to wait once more. Seated inside a giant shell I figured this would be a little too ‘young’ for my daughter, and my husband seated behind us with my 4 year old would be better entertained. What a mistake I made. My daughter’s eyes literally danced and sparkled. I had never seen her so in awe and wonderful rapture than at that moment. She knew every character and was so thoroughly excited to see Ariel (never mind her robotic nature) that I found myself welling up with emotion. I had forgotten. I had really forgotten all the ground work my husband and I had done while she was a pre-schooler to encourage her imagination and belief in magic. I had forgotten we had been the fairies in the forest writing back to her……we had never discounted the possibility of mermaids or other such wondrous creatures. And we had always said she was a princess in our eyes. That anything was possible. And yet here I was so surprised by her engagement with this magic, I was completely overwhelmed. In that moment I decided that we needed to catch ourselves and slow the pace right down, so that she could be the little girl she was for as long as possible. Her belief of magic and love of fairy tales allows for a kind of innocence that, as parents, we hope will continue for a while yet. As I continued to observe her wonderment during Disney’s World of Colour, I made a silent promise that we would continue to ensure she had every opportunity to believe and continue the magic for as long as she was wanting to do. That it was not up to us to be reminding her that she was growing up and hurrying her along the path. That we would take each step beside her, not in front telling her to keep up.
So that was my life lesson as we circumnavigated the world. We, of course, learned so much more about ourselves as individuals, as a family and about the places we visited. But the most profound learning was just that – my children will grow and continue to grow at their own pace. And that we should never be too old for magic and fairy tales.