The (super) power of Peter Pan parenting
Posted on October 27th, 2012
emembering what it was like to be a child is a super power, I think. It is to parenting what Peter Pan‘s ability to fly is to fighting Captain Hook. Sadly, it isn’t mine.
I was reminded of this when Roy came pounding out of a junk store last week to tell me in his trademark, tabloid journalism style, that Daddy had just spent $45 on a souvenir for Marcel. I was horrified. Holy hell, I had only been gone for 10 minutes (buying gourmet pimento cheese and a key lime tart, if you must know)! I had been under the impression that The Three were digging through the baskets of commercially-polished seashells and the bowls of blown glass key chains—crafted to look like shells. What had Marcel found that had been so compelling that Scott had set fire to $45 to buy it?
The Eye of Time, of course. And this precious artifact even had its own backstory.
Marcel had discovered it on the counter of the very same store a year ago and oh, how he had loved it. While the other children found things they wanted to bring home with them—a turtle keychain for Peaches and a tiny bottle containing even tinier shark teeth for Roy—Marcel was single-minded: he wanted the Eye of Time or he wanted nothing.
And nothing was what he got.
A year later and I didn’t remember any of that. In my defense, I had not been an active participant in the souvenir acquisition process on that occasion, but I have to be honest: I never am. The collective worrying over plastic swords and eye patches, stuffed animals and baseball caps makes me impatient. What are we going to do with these things, really? I am the Wendy returned from Neverland to grow up, who has forgotten about crocodiles that tick, who has lost her ability to fly.
But my children are saved every single day from what might otherwise be a perfectly safe but utterly dull existence by a father who does remember what it was like to be little. He is kind to them in ways I find startling ($45?!?), but it is only because he can summon up a shared vision of the world seen out of younger eyes that I cannot. He is Peter Pan to my workaday Wendy, a flying boy who knows when to spend money we won’t miss on something meaningful to an 11-year-old. His is an empathy I don’t realize I don’t feel until I see it in action, moving and changing our children’s lives. It’s in the space of these moments that I am jealous of him, of his ability to fly with them, while remain on the ground.
“I liked it because it was more than a wrist watch. It looked like something a businessman would wear,” Marcel told me.
“A businessman?” I asked. This timepiece boasted a lot more imagination in its execution than I would expect your workaday middle manager to appreciate in a watch.
He considered this.
“Like Sherlock Holmes,” he clarified.
I can see that. I just have to remind myself to try and see it more. Wendy had her treasure trove of Neverland memories too, you know.∗