I am the mean-mom who doesn’t let my kids have new toys when it’s not Christmas or birthdays, despite the fact that every single child in the school goes to Smyths EVERY SUNDAY to buy new toys – these are the same children who apparently all have their own YouTube channels, own iPhones, are allowed go to concerts, and have regular sleepovers – even on school nights. (“Will I just check that on the class WhatsApp group?” usually sends the claimant scuttling from her claim.)
So when I was in Easons last week to sign some books and my youngest was busy looking at fairy doors, I ignored his first twenty pleas to be allowed to have one. He’s been asking for a fairy door for months now, though he already has one and his fairy, Diamond Crystal Crystal Diamond, has been living there very happily for the last two years.
“You can ask for one for Christmas or save up your money and buy one,” I said, “Why do you want one anyway – you already have one?”
“But Diamond Crystal Crystal Diamond needs a friend,” he said, “She lives all on her own… Can’t I use my birthday money?”
I’d forgotten he still had €20 from his birthday – this was starting to seem like a reasonably reasonable request, and after all, poor Diamond Crystal was lonely. So I checked that he was absolutely 100% sure that he was happy to spend his entire life savings on a fairy door, then I checked again, and a third time, and finally agreed that I’d buy it for him and take the €20 when we got home.
So the happiest boy in Ireland picked out a new blue fairy door, told me I was the best mum in the world, and home we went to set it up.
His big sisters were suitable impressed, and one whispered to me, “Will you write letters to him from his new fairy?”
I’d forgotten all about the writing of letters. Remembering to do this is not my forté, and our three existing fairies’ reputations have suffered as a result.
“Hey – could I write the letters!” my daughter went on, before I could answer, and off she went to get her coloured gel pens and her notebook, and set to work.
There was huge excitement the following morning when my small boy discovered a note from his new fairy, whose name turned out to be Lilac. She wrote in tiny fairy writing to tell him all about herself. Now every night he writes her little notes and every morning, there’s a reply. Lilac has an enviable letter-writing stamina that kind of puts me to shame.
And it’s not the only thing the sisters are doing for themselves – this week it was my birthday and my husband was away all week for work. The kids were worried about him missing my birthday, and I did the martyr thing – telling them grown-ups don’t mind about birthdays – even though secretly I was feeling a bit sorry for myself.
Then my eldest announced that since her dad was away, she’d make me a cake. So without any help at all, she looked up a sponge recipe, baked the cake, then covered it in buttercream icing, in my favourite colour. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life had a birthday cake I loved as much as this one. I tried to tell her that, but I suspect the thinks I’m doing that over-praising thing that parents do, and has no idea how much it meant to me that she went to so much trouble.
And I get that part of it is because she likes baking, and that her little sister likes writing fairy notes and I know that it’s a lot because they’re not jaded like I am – they’re still enthusiastic about things that take effort but have fun outcomes. But it’s more than that I think – I feel like after all the years of wondering why they leave their socks on the floor or fight over what TV show to watch, I’m seeing something bigger emerge from the tiny frustrations of every day life. I’m seeing two girls who are kind and empathetic – two girls who knew how much happiness fairy notes would bring to a small boy, and how much joy this tired mother would get from a birthday cake iced in blue.