A few weeks ago my granddaughter lost her first tooth. When I asked her what the tooth fairy brought her, she said her Mommy told her that the tooth fairy was not real and that she would be giving her a dollar for losing a tooth. Being the world’s most perfect Mother-in-law, I said nothing to contradict what her Mother told her but I was disappointed.
What purpose is served by telling a child who still looks at life as a magical place that none of it is real? What’s wrong with a young child believing in the tooth fairy and other magical things like Santa Claus, flying reindeer, princesses in castles, animals who sing and dance…the list goes on and on? As children grow older, they will understand and accept the differences between real life and make believe. What gives grownups the right to determine when this should happen? Shouldn’t it be a child’s decision?
When our children were little, my husband and I used to sit and create imaginative stories to share with them before they would go to bed. My stories were about a character named Henry the tin soldier who used to get into all sorts of mischief. The stories were based on a colorful print that I had bought for our youngest son’s room. Each night they would ask me, “What did Henry do next Mommy?” The stories went on for years, long after they were old enough to read themselves to sleep. My husband’s stories were about two kangaroos and their adventures in the world behind a rainbow. When they were sick, he told them that the stories would make them better. To this day, they believe the stories helped them recuperate.
When my eldest daughter was a little girl, I used to take her for long bicycle rides. She would sit in her little seat on the back of my bicycle and off we would go, exploring the neighborhood. There was a street behind ours filled with gorgeous older homes that looked like magical castles. One of the homes was so magnificent, I created a story about a princess with long golden hair who stood every day on the balcony. Though we couldn’t see the princess, I told my daughter that the princess could see us and looked forward to watching us ride by. Every day my daughter would ask, “Mommy, do you think the princess is watching us?”
My daughter-in-law is a preschool teacher and reads a lot of child rearing articles and books. She, like many parents of her generation, raises her child according to facts from the experts. Technology has made it possible for this generation of parents to be saturated with information. When is it too much?
When I look back at the many years I spent raising four children, (before the internet), I truly believe that my intuition served me better than the child rearing books I read or my college degree in Education. I was blessed to have been raised by parents who taught me that it was ok to draw outside the lines, play with my dolls long after an “acceptable” age (I still play with them) and dance to the beat of my own drummer.
My hope is that my granddaughter will be able to enjoy the magical world of make believe for as long as she wants. My wish is that she will always remember and embrace the enchantment of life.