Let Them Be Kids


A girl playing with a dollhouse.When my older daughter was three, we took her on a birthday trip to Disney World. There was excitement. There was magic. There was joy. But also, my little inquisitive smarty pants was quick to tell me that there were people inside the characters. She declared that the princesses were definitely real, but any character in a costume with a head was not real. I ignored her declaration, and we continued in ignorant bliss for the rest of the trip.

It made me a little sad that perhaps she was “too smart for her own good,” as they say. I was concerned that she would see through the magic of all things kids believe in. But as I swiftly traded in the tooth under her pillow for some money from the tooth fairy just a few weeks ago, I’m happy to report that did not come to pass.

My 9-year-old still believes in the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus (yes, we’re Jewish, but they still get a little something from the jolly man in red!). Sometimes I can’t believe it. My husband and I will often discuss whether she REALLY still believes in these things or just lets us have our fun because I can’t believe her friends haven’t discussed the validity of a fairy coming in undetected and trading teeth for money. However, it seems like she’s still a true believer! 

When I describe our older daughter, I say she’s a “young” 9, but what exactly does that mean? She still plays with dolls, loves to create made-up stories and games, and prefers cartoons to live-action TV shows and movies. She is obsessed with Harry Potter but has only seen the first few movies, as we have all deemed the rest too adult for her, for now. I see some of her peers already starting to dabble in makeup, more adult clothing, and some even have cellphones. Our girl is still all leggings and Harry Potter t-shirts, all the time. And you know what? That’s just fine. 

When I was growing up, I was one of the last of my friends still playing with Barbie’s and reading the Berenstain Bear book collection. I was still buying dolls when other girls my age were buying makeup. I remember these specifics because I was embarrassed, so I hid my childlike preferences until I was ready to join my friends in more “mature” games and books.

I remember being completely embarrassed, but now that I’m seeing the same preferences reflected in my own child, I have to say, “let them be kids!” 

There are so many more ways our kids have to grow up with today than I ever did, from lockdown drills, masks in school, security guards on site. We never put the news on at home because I want to shield my children from as much as I can for as long as I can. 

I already see a small divide happening with my daughter and some girls in her grade, where some are ready to grow up, and others (like my daughter) are still in the blissful ignorance of childhood. And to that I say, leave them alone. Do I get frustrated that sometimes she seems a little TOO immature? Sure. But then I think about all the trials and tribulations that will come knocking on her door soon enough and will take every last second of childhood I can. 

So I’ll keep leaving tooth fairy money under her pillow. I will insist that Santa delivered that gift. And I will, with pleasure, buy every last doll she asks for, for as long as she asks for it because there’s a whole world out there waiting with big kid problems, disappointments, and peer pressure. And I think we can wait a few more years for that. 


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