Our house is on top of a hill and we have forest around much of our property. I love walks in the woods with my kids. Sometimes for fun, during walks, my son and I grab large sticks and pretend to fight invisible dragons. We both love the manly power behind the swords and fighting off evil, dangerous creatures to protect the innocent. But of course the dragons are a myth like Santa Claus.
My daughter is not much into dragons but loves Santa and the Tooth Fairy. However, my children realized quicker than most (by years) that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy were just stories. Prior to their disbelief, when my son was pretty convinced that Santa Clause was a fabrication, he asked me, “Dad, Santa isn’t real, is he? You and Mom do all that, right?” I tried to quickly think what was behind the obvious question.
You see, my wife and I never really spoke of Santa as real at any time, but many of his friends firmly believed in Santa perhaps because their parents had woven the story with much more sincerity. My son had been talking with kids at school about it and I could tell he was about to share his insights with his friends and perhaps with his younger sister.
So I said to my son, “Do you like slaying Dragons with me in the woods?”
“Yes,” he replied.
I pushed further, “Well, are the dragons real?”
“No, of course not,” he said.
“Well, should we stop pretending because they aren’t real?” I asked timidly (because I loved fighting dragons with him).
“Well, no,” he said. Then with a smile he said, “Oh, I see, Dad.”
Then I wrapped up our conversation by saying, “And remember, lots of kids really enjoy Santa. There is no reason to spoil it early for them.” He understood and agreed. With that, we went outside and fought dragons for a short while.
My daughter is much more creative than my son in the realm of stories and art. She does not believe in Santa nor in the Tooth Fairy, but she still talks about them as if they are real and insists on them coming to life at the appropriate times. But she is very comfortable with the contradictory simultaneous embracing of talking about Mom and Dad as really being these imaginary folks and still using these imaginary creatures to enrich her, and our lives. As a young child, she could only embrace the myth, now as a mature child, she can do both.
Question for readers: How did Santa go for you?
Related Post: My son and the Tooth Fairy: sacrificing reason.