For my birthday this year I decided upon a week's vacation in Massachusetts with extended family. I woke up on the morning of the grand day with my niece and nephew's heads hanging over mine with excitement. They had both made me birthday gifts. My 5 and 5/12 year-old nephew (a budding math aficionado) handed me a bracelet he'd made out of a pipe cleaner. My 3-year-old niece gave me a magic wand she'd made out of a colored Popsicle stick, a pipe cleaner, and a sparkling red star. Better gifts I could not ask for. The last Harry Potter book was on its way to bookstores, and after living in tight quarters with extended family for a few days, we could all use some jewels and a little magic.

When parents are disputing over custody and visitation, I often talk individually to the children when they are between the ages of 4-17. The conversation is confidential unless the kids have information that they want me to share with their parents or unless there are indications that they are in danger. I usually ask them: "If you had a magic wand, what three things would you wish for?" Most kids wish that their parents would get back together or stop fighting or both. Some children wish for lots of money so they could take care of their families, or that a beloved relative or pet would come back to life; or that a sad family member would feel happy again.

Upon returning home, I immediately brought the magic wand my niece had made me to my office. Now the kids with whom I talk won't have to pretend to have a magic wand. Unfortunately, their wishes will still be make-believe. Unlike Harry Potter's wand, no sparks will fly when they wave it, no Patronus (an animal or protector created by the "Patronus Charm" spell) will escape from the tip and save them.

The older I get, the less I seem to wish. The realities of life catch up with me on a daily basis, and the dreams I had when I was in my teens and twenties seem harder and harder to fulfill. Perhaps that's why so many adults love the Harry Potter series. Perhaps that's why there's something so magical about being around kids. Some wishes and dreams do come true, after all, and where would any of us be without hope? 

By Laura L. Noah
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