A few months ago, I pulled my children out of school early for a surprise visit to see their cousins. Like other families, the pandemic has limited our traveling, so I was super excited about this opportunity. I spent all morning envisioning the super-awesome-amazing joy and gratitude I was certain my offspring would show.
Alas, sigh, you probably know what’s coming.
Off I went, basically skipping to pick up child number one. “Hey! Surprise! We are going to visit your cousins!” Strangely, child one did not jump for joy. Instead, child one widened her eyes, looked worried, and then asked a million questions.
No matter. Maybe she wasn’t into it, but my hope would not be crushed. Pick up child two. “Hey buddy! Are you so excited to go see your cousins?!” “Yeah Mom…but, I’m gonna’ miss football at second recess.” Gracious. Why weren’t these children getting on my joy train?! Come on! It’s fun on the joy train!
We had almost reached the highway (a full five-minute drive away) when they collectively dealt the final blow. Despite having eaten lunch at school, they both sensed the impending road trip, “Moooommmmm! We’re huuuuunnnnngggggry!”
So there I sat, completely deflated and honestly a little ticked, waiting in the fast-food line when the husband texts, “How’d it go?” My response: “The moment fairy did NOT deliver.” Response: “Lol. She never does.”
You see, what my husband knows is that I have a long, complicated relationship with the moment fairy. Of course the moment fairy isn’t real, but long ago we had to name her. We needed a way to call out my tendency to have unrealistic expectations around “special” moments. Moments with my children, moments with my husband, especially moments around holidays. Yes, the moment fairy is quite the temptress, and she has let me down time and again.
So, as Christmas approaches, I wanted to give us all the opportunity to break up with the moment fairy. To stop trying to control everything. To stop worshiping the ideal. To finally help us love through and to whatever does come rather than what we think “should” be.
Tips for Breaking Up with the Moment Fairy
Ask Yourself, “What’s the Goal Here?”: I know this may sound overly simple, but it’s effective. The moment fairy gains leverage when we’re so excited about or consumed by our experience of an anticipated moment that we don’t stop to really think about some of the realistic details or needs. If we can pause, even briefly, and ask ourselves what the goal of the experience is, we are more likely to remember that love comes first, and moments are a by-product. We can then take ourselves and our satisfaction out of the driver’s seat, allowing us to better love and serve others.
Attend to Basic Needs: This one is especially true with children. My oldest is nine. I’ve been a parent long enough to know better than to go anywhere other than down the street without snacks. I also know that while children can get excited, they can also get super overwhelmed or worried by anything that is out of routine. Because they’re kids. That day, I failed to remember that because I was so focused on creating a magical moment. It probably would have been just as great to give them a heads up the night before and pack some sandwiches the next day. If we keep basic needs for food, safety, and sleep in mind, the beautiful moments are more likely to arrive with our littles.
Identify Your Weak Spots: The moment fairy targets all of us in different ways. She especially tends to go after us in areas of tradition, sentiment, and/or insecurity. For me, she usually shows up on Christmas morning, the first and last day of school, and when I’m waking my kids up in the morning. If we can see her coming and say, “Not today moment fairy, I’m going to be loving and open to whatever God brings” she usually backs off. When we intentionally fight off worshiping the ideal, we are much more available to recognize the beauty that remains.
Expose the Lie: This is the heart of it. The moment fairy gets her power from tricking you into thinking that whatever you can contrive is better than what may come. On this same day I tried to make sure my kids had a perfect magical moment, I later listened to them giggle in the car with one another and greet their cousins with hugs, laughs, and more “moments” than I could count. These things would have come whether I tried so hard or not. We must remind ourselves that if we take care of the little things and lead with love, the moments will often come to our open, welcoming hearts.
So, there you go folks. Finally, a name to give to that over-controlling, emotional-event-leading, ever-disappointing influence. The moment fairy has tempted me far too many times, and I am determined to stop her in her tracks this year. The most beautiful moments I have ever experienced with my children, my husband, or even in my own solitude, are ones I did not plan and certainly did not see coming. I’m going to give that a try.
Adios moment fairy, and good riddance.