JM Barrie’s Peter Pan has always been one of my favorite stories. As a child I was mesmerized by Mary Martin’s stage performance, and, as an early reader, the book was one of the first “literary classics” I read. I loved it all. The flying, the pirates, the adventure, the humor. I wanted to BE Peter Pan.
Last night, I went with one of my sons to watch a stage production of Peter Pan. Watching him take in the show was the highlight of my night. The way his eyes lit up as the crocodile slithered onto stage. His whisper as he asked if Peter Pan would really drink the poison Captain Hook left for him. The treasured moment when he showed he believed in fairies by enthusiastically adding his claps to the audience’s to bring Tinkerbell back to life.
Afterwards, I told him how much I loved the story of Peter Pan as a child. I told him I once tried to catch a fairy by setting a sparkly, sticky trap, knowing that if I could just get some fairy dust I might be able to fly. I listened as he planned out loud, adding his 21st Century revisions to my simplistic fairy trap. (It was a much better design after adding cameras, robotic arms, and sparkle-sensors.)
As I drove home I thought of how much that night resembled the last scene in Peter Pan. Only moments before, Wendy returns home from Neverland. With one quick scene change, Peter arrives at the nursery to find Wendy a grown woman, her own child sleeping nearby. While Peter never did grow up, Wendy has, so her daughter takes her place in the next adventure in Neverland.
While I so vividly remember my childhood fascination with the story of Peter Pan, I am now “ever so much more than twenty” and, like Wendy, I find myself passing the treasured tale on to my own children.
And though I may try to make them promise they won’t grow up, it all seems to happen in the blink of an eye. One simple scene change.
I’m not quite ready to join ranks with the Lost Boys, but it all brought to mind the many times I’ve had someone who’s already moved on past their child rearing years pat me on the arm and say, with a tender sincerity in their eyes, “Enjoy this. It goes by so fast.”
I know not every moment is joy and bliss, and there are moments I’d love to fast-forward — the hourly night wakings, the stomach flu, the constant “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!” interruptions that sometimes fall like the repetitive drops of water in a Chinese Water Torture experiment.
But sometimes, even in the midst of these moments, I pause and remember the magical and fleeting nature of childhood.
It reminds me to …
Slow down and look them in the eyes more.
Read more stories.
Listen to more stories.
Create the memorable scenes together.
Believe in fairies.
Push aside the tasks on my to-do list and focus more on the work of childhood.
Because, they will grow up.
What do you do to treasure childhood?
(Adapted from my original post in 2011. And yes, that little boy just keeps growing up.)