More ordinary magic

Cyril sitting on a benchThis image is from an exhibition of photographs taken by children who attend C & K Kindergartens. It was on display at C & K’s annual conference in Brisbane last weekend. Here is what first Jake, then his parent, say about the photo.

Jake: “Cyril came to visit us to have coffee and biscuits. I like playing ducks with Cyril. [Parent comment: They make stories up about three wooden duck figurines.] At Cyril’s house I have a biscuit and then I have a jelly bean. I go walking with Cyril down the footpath. Cyril is my friend.”

Jake’s Parent: “Jake took this photo of our neighbour Cyril in June last year. Jake had invited Cyril to join us on the porch for morning tea and a chat. We printed this photo for Cyril for Christmas and now it sits proudly on his bookcase. Both Jake’s grandfathers passed long before he was born, so when we met Cyril (when Jake was about 18 months old) they adopted each other. Jake loves to join Cyril on his daily walk to check the mail or wander across to the beach where they chat to the seagulls. As soon as Cyril walks past Jake is out the door to join him. They have spent hours sharing stories, arrowroot biscuits and jelly beans (there is a special jar for the occasion). The most delightful thing is their secret handshake, which is customary before leaving each other. I am sure this friendship has created beautiful memories for both of them and has reminded me of the importance of giving our children time to enjoy the company of special friends.”

I thought this story was a fine example of what child psychologist and leading resilience researcher Ann Masten calls ‘ordinary magic’. She says that resilience “typically arises from the operation of normal rather than extraordinary human capabilities, relationships, and resources.” As I argued in a recent post, we need to celebrate everyday encounters and interactions like these.

Thanks to Sharon Mehan at C & K for bringing the story to my attention, and to C & K for giving me permission to share the photo and text.

5 responses to “More ordinary magic

  1. Wonderful, wonderful! These special relationships are a ‘benefit’ (although the term seems reductionist) of good and connected neighbourhoods which is so easily missed in studies. The little bits in between what gets measured may actually be the most important.

  2. Thanks Alice! Every time I reread the quotes I get a little tingle. And you’re right to sound a note of caution about the idea of ‘cashing out’ experiences like these. Like you, I just want to make sure we pay more attention to them.

  3. And thank you for doing so!

  4. That’s a lovely story. I was fortunate to grow up in a street full of older people and us kids used to enjoy ‘doing the rounds’ visiting the neighbours and their pets, eg, Bill with his budgie, Mr and Mrs G with their cockatoo. The biscuits were always a bonus! :)

  5. I’m reminded of Mem Fox’s beautiful book Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge. LOVE children’s books that celebrate this “ordinary magic” too.

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