Last year, my sister Mary, her fiance, and his mom were traveling through our town on their way back from vacation. Mary called me to make plans to stop by. Mary and Jack have always had a very special bond. Knowing how excited he would be to see "Beamie", I asked Jack if he'd want to see her that night. He chirped "Yes!" and so I asked him to close his eyes and make a wish; to wish for Beamie to come that night. He did and then we all went outside to play in the yard. Within a half hour, we saw headlights coming into the cul-de-sac. It was Beamie. Jack's face lit up like a Christmas tree. "It came true! It came true!" he shouted all the way up the garden path as he ran to his beloved aunt. She scooped him up and they embraced like velco monkeys
Two things about this story-
1. It is absoutely true and endearing and heartwarming
2. I am a stone cold, bald faced LIAR. Pants on fire liar. I made my son believe that he could wish something into reality. All lies.
Does #2 change the story for you?
Oh man, the lies we tell our children! Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, they're all part of the magical fabric of childhood, all massive lies, but magical nonetheless. Since I don't love considering myself an unabashed liar, I've had to come to terms with these sweet little lies and the reasons we tell them.
I should start by saying that in our house, we greatly downplay Santa and the Easter Bunny. We talk and act as if they're real, but on Christmas, there's not a single gift I give to the boys that's marked from Santa. To my boys, mom, dad, and Santa are all in cahoots and we make Christmas plans together, but my boys know that every single present under the tree is from mom and dad. I know that's a bit odd, but here's my rationale...
Parenting is a rough and thankless business, especially in these early years. Why in the world would we outsource one of the most thrilling moments our children experience to some mythical being? Like, let me get this straight for a second.
Mom & Dad: chores, forced vegetable eating, homework, bedtimes, order, structure, routine
Santa: heaps and heaps of presents
Easter Bunny: heaps and heaps of candy
Tooth Fairy: cold, hard cash
Whaaaa???? That's crazy! Parents need those other things to balance out their list of demands! Why do we give made up people all of the glory? And yet, we play along, we dabble in magic and make believe in these fleeting years when magic and make believe are essential ingredients for a happy life.
So if parents dance around the truth, we must forgive ourselves. At 38, it's much easier for me to see the bleakness of the world than it is for me to see the magic. My boys find magic in everything. When they hunker down behind our living room couch with their Justice League and Power Rangers playsets and immerse themselves in a world of their own creation, they're dabbling with magic. I see tiny action figures strewn across the floor. I see the mess. They see heroes, lying in wait for the next great adventure. They see possibility.
I think we can all take a page from their book. So we are complicit in the lies. We do our best to preserve the years when the world is nothing but possibility and potential. Maybe, just maybe if we try hard enough, we can look out at the landscape that is the world in the year 2017 and see some possibility and potential ourselves. Please remind me of this the next time I step on one of those small action figures so instead of yelling out DAMMIT, I proclaim THIS IS SO MAGICAL instead.
But do try to take some credit for the magic. Don't outsource all of it. You deserve some credit for the joy. You deserve some credit for allowing childhood to be a highly filtered, special and wonderful time.
"It came true!" Jack exclaimed, in awe of how inexplicably wonderful life is.
His wish came true. Magic.