A few days ago my husband and I were snuggled up in our bed with our two girls as they had vivid discussions about a "How to Train Your Dragon" event we attended at Gaylord National Resort last summer.
It went something like this:
Gabby: ...and there was a dragon and he was breathing fire. Do you remember, Mommy? He was big like this (stretching her arms wide)! So big.
Bella: Nuh uh, Gabby. That dragon wasn't even real. Dragons can't breathe fire. That was a human inside doing like this (she demonstrates).
Gabby: Yes, they can breathe fire. I saw it. He's big!
Bella: It's not even real, Gabby.
Gabby: Yes it is.
Then here's where I interjected:
Me: Bella, please don't fight with your sister about the show. To Gabby what she saw was real. The show was about training dragons and when that dragon came out and breathed fire in front of all the kids, that's what she saw. It was magic.
Me: Well, what you saw was a puppeteer inside the puppet and making it breathe fire, but you're older now. To the little ones, that human is invisible and all they see is the show. So, you have to learn not to steal the magic from them. You were small once and believed in the magic then too.
Me: When you're a teenager. The only thing you'll see is your phone, because surely you'll be texting during a puppet show. As a matter of fact, we all saw something different at that show. As we age, the way we see things changes too.
-Gabby (3yo): saw a magical dragon breathing fire and fighting a warrior.
-Bella (6yo): saw a puppet show from the cast of How to Train Your Dragon.
-Mommy: saw every exit door for how to escape in case of an emergency.
-Daddy: saw the clock tick as he counted the minutes to go to Starbucks.
This is important for parents to remember. As we age all the magic we saw as a child will come into focus. Sometimes it's on our own time and sometimes we'll have someone spoil it for us. I've seen parents argue cases against sharing the story of Santa Claus. I've never seen a valid argument as I have never met a teenager or adult who still believes in him.
My belief is that we should let the little children see magic. Their innocence is a precious time in their lives and playing "make believe" is a beautiful thing. It let's them explore their imagination. It inspires them to tell stories vividly and they see a big picture even though to us it's only a fraction of it.
As our children grow, they'll see more clearly and they'll understand what "make believe" is and how it is happening.
My hope is that my children will inspire imagination in their future, by entertaining their own children and/or others. As a person who grew up in children's theater, I know that nothing was more rewarding than the smiles and amazement on the kid's innocent faces. That is why entertainers do what they do. Superman, Mary Poppins, Popeye, Jeannie (of I Dream of Jeannie) and a lot of characters we grew up watching used to be real to us at one time. Remember?
Until my kids grow up and understand "make believe" on the next level, I will always let them see magic.