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As the sun began to drop, they took a moment to break from the busy day, get cleaned up and to don their finest attire. Two little red-heads twirled in their fancy swirly sparkly dresses, braids in their hair, the palest of pink slippers wrapped around their precious toes. One big bearded Papa shrugged on his rough brown tunic, his worn leather belt and his most swarthy grin. Headed off to a dance together, a father and daughter affair – Princesses and Pirates. An evening to be filled with music, smiles and giggles. Silly fun.

It is the moments like these, these rare and cherished moments, that reveal the innocent nature of pure, uncomplicated childhood. My beautiful daughters glowing in the warm attention of their Papa. A few droplets of perfume transporting them to a far off land of fantasy, princesses and fairies, pirates and stormy seas. Their eyes sparkling, their cheeks flushed, their bodies full to over-flowing with joy and anticipation. Their smiles honest and sincere.

Open hearted love. Simple joy. Magic.

I often do not have any idea if I am doing the right thing as a mother, as their mother. I try, I’m sure too hard at times, to give my children the gift of a gentle childhood. To push away the ugly truth of the world from them for a while longer, to create a soft place. All too soon they will learn of the heartbreak and sorrow, the harshness and bitter cold of the larger world. For now though, for these few precious years, I am trying to create a quiet buffer around them from the strange world of grown-up concerns. This is what feels right to me.

I don’t want to shelter my children. Please don’t misunderstand. My intention is not to leave them unprepared for the world that is waiting for them. I don’t want their lives away from me to be scary or disorienting or overwhelming. No, my intention is only to keep them secure and safe and within reach just long enough that their souls, their spirits, have all the time they require to stretch up fully toward the sun and to burrow deep down sinking sturdy roots. I want to nurture their unique being so it can fill up their little bodies, from their eyelashes to the very soles of their feet, leaving no room for self-doubt or insecurity to seep in. I want them to gradually run farther and farther in front of me, but not so far ahead that they can’t see me if they need to look back for reassurance. I want them grounded in our family.

The trials and strife of any life well-lived waits for them – this I know. They will spend the whole of their adult lives bending and twisting in the harsh elements of reality. I want to give them the tools they will need to seek wide and far, to search without fear, for their special bliss. To find their own path. I want to allow them this time in childhood to get to know themselves fully, as fully as one can in youth, before we separate ourselves from one another.

Why, oh why would I ever rush them? Why would I ever push them forward? Why would I ever want to shorten this enchanted time? I would not. I will not.

I want them to linger here in childhood. To wander around in this sacred space, filling up their days with imagination and discovery, with fantasy and play. I want them to get bored and to dream. I want them to roll down grassy hills and to play in sun soaked waves. I want them to melt snowflakes on their tongues and to hop around in pillow cases. I want them to make noise and get dirty, even if it makes me crazy. I want them to sing and giggle and dance. I want them to dance with abandon, hearts wide open to the sky just like they did on this night.

This one magical night.

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