“Oh wow, look! A castle!”
It wasn’t actually a castle. It was a huge industrial plant that we were driving past, but Ezra’s little toddler eyes saw something else.
“It sure is, bud!” I replied.
We passed a few more castles on our way to our destination – each met with just as much enthusiasm from my passenger in the backseat – and that little voice in my head came up. If you’re a parent, you know the voice I’m talking about. It’s the one that tells you all the things you’re doing wrong.
“You should have corrected him,” it said. “You shouldn’t let him think a factory is a castle. You should have told him it’s a place where people build things.”
I generally try to ignore that voice when it comes up. No good comes from it – usually – and anyway, most of the time, I think I’m a pretty laid back mama and I let things roll off my back.
For some reason, though, this particular little moment in time stuck with me throughout the day and that voice would not let up. That night, as I laid in bed, I thought about castles and factories, perceptions and realities. I thought about simplicity and complexity, childhood and adulthood.
I do some of my best thinking at night, because usually it takes me a good long while to fall asleep.
And as I was pondering all of these things, I came to realize that, right now, it’s my job to protect and nurture the simplicity of childhood. There will be a time when we’ll drive down that road and my backseat passenger will be a little bigger, and he’ll know we’re driving through our city’s industrial quarter and there are no castles there.
The reality will be that the magic has gone, and he’s moved on to other things. And while growing up isn’t a bad thing – it’s my little boy’s job right now, after all – it is a thing that doesn’t have to happen quite so fast.
In the meantime, I want him to find the castles. And maybe even imagine there are knights fighting dragons within those walls. I love his exclamations when we drive past big rigs, construction sites and train tracks – things I’ve long since become used to seeing as I make my way around our city, things that have lost their magic to me.
So I’ll quiet that voice and save the should-haves for another time and, for now, keep it simple and keep it sweet.