Moms, keep planning the magic—even when it doesn’t seem like your kids feel it anymore

mom and young daughter sharing a smoothie on the beach laughing childhood magic

Do you ever feel exhausted, or even defeated, from pouring all of your energy into trying to create magical moments for your kids? Especially when those moments of childhood magic don’t live up to your expectations?

Last year, we set aside a special night to decorate for Christmas together. I pictured smiles and laughter as we sorted through handmade ornaments. I imagined looks of amazement as the tree lit up for the first time. I looked forward to quality time as family. But instead of the magical moments I had hoped for, the night was filled with things like, “Can we go play video games now?” and “Are we done yet?” It was very disheartening and disappointing. And if you’re reading this, I bet that you can relate.

Related: As a mom, I’m ‘Chief Memory Maker’—a job that is equal parts wonderful and hard 

Maybe it’s a family trip to Disney—a dream vacation. And yet instead of seeing smiles and amazement, you’re listening to continuous complaints about the long lines and the heat. Don’t your children know how long it took to plan this trip? Or how much money it cost? Why aren’t they happy in the happiest place on earth?

Or maybe it’s even something as simple as a family trip to the beach, a favorite tradition that you look forward to each summer. Every year, their sandcastles get taller and they can swim a little further out into the ocean. But sure enough, instead of the excitement that you longed for, (in their own words) the beach is too sandy, the water is too cold or they’re hungry. It’s so easy to become frustrated.

Why isn’t this turning out the way that I’d hoped? Where is the magic?

So why do we keep planning? Why do we keep our expectations high? Why do we keep trying to make the magic happen?

Keep planning the childhood magic, mama. You’ll never, ever regret giving your children more joy.

The thing is this: the magic is there. It just looks different than we planned. It’s not a whole day of wonder and delight. It comes in tiny moments of joy. It’s the way your child stands back to look at the decorated Christmas tree and excitedly proclaims, “It’s perfect!” Or when they shriek with happiness over seeing their favorite Disney character up close.

It’s when two brothers grab hands and say, “Can you believe we’re really here?” when they get their first sight of the castle. Or when you’re driving home from the beach and they can’t stop laughing about burying daddy in the sand.

Related: The chaos of motherhood is a part of the magic 

So perhaps, mamas, we should consider a new perspective when planning. We may not get an entire day, or even a whole hour, but there will always be tiny moments of joy.

And is it worth it—all the planning and hoping for just a few, tiny moments? I wholeheartedly say yes. Although we may have trouble erasing the whining and complaining from our memories, our children will only remember the magic.

They don’t know about the hours of planning. They’re not focused on our disappointment or frustration. What they will remember is that feeling of joy, no matter how brief. And so will you.

Those small moments of joy are gifts that you give to your children. Gifts that they keep with them for years to come. Gifts that you both hold onto as they grow. So keep planning the childhood magic, mama. You’ll never, ever regret giving your children more joy.

A version of this story was originally published on Jan. 11, 2023. It has been updated.