Parents are domestic wizards in the eyes of our children. We understand how complicated things work. We fix broken toys, tape together the ripped pages of books. We heal bruised skin with kisses.
After years spent working as a clown before I had my kidlets, I was more magical than the average mum. I could make things appear and disappear. I could pull colours from the air and drop them onto the empty pages of a book, produce handkerchiefs from behind my son’s ear. I would allow him to hold my special magic wand, only to have it bend or break in his hands.
For a little while, my son believed I was magic. I never performed magic ‘tricks’ for him– there were no tricks here. I was magical, and I made these things happen.
I knew, logically, that his suspension of disbelief would not continue forever. Watching your children figure out the world is not always rainbows and lollipops, it’s sad. It hurts, when you wish you could keep them in a bubble; keep them innocent and tiny and sweet forever.
My son came home from school one day with a totally new perspective on everything. He had discovered the secret to one of my illusions and suddenly realised that it was all tricks. Not real magic at all.
The magic book I had, one I’d entertained him with many times before, was not quite as amazing as I’d made it out to be. You expect your children to learn all kinds of things at school. The secret to your magic tricks isn’t one of them.
One of his friends had a book, he said, the same as my book, and showed the class how it worked. A simple deception. A sleight of hand. An illusion, ruined and distorted. It made me feel a little bit like a liar.
It’s not a big deal at all, in the scheme of things… children learn little truths all the time while we’re not watching. But it felt like a loss. A tiny loss. I find myself using the word ‘lost’ as a synonym for ‘growing up’ so often these days.
To compensate for this piece of the real world thrown at us so unexpectedly, I confess my trickery and let my boy in to what I’ve been keeping from him. I spend the next few days showing him how silk handkerchiefs disappear and how wands break in half. How to make things appear in velvet bags, how to multiply what you have in your hands. I watch him wonder at this skill I have, at the things I can teach him.
The magic isn’t gone. Just shared.