I babysat my nephew Aden of two and a half, for four days. He is an absolute joy! It is refreshing being around a child this age because they are completely honest. They haven’t learnt not to be! He also helped me put a new perspective on something that I spend a lot of time considering.
Imagination. My observations of people have shown me that generally speaking, those with greater imaginations are able to achieve greater things in their lives. Unfortunately, there are few of us who are able to fully engage our imaginations in our daily lives. I think it’s because we see imagination as an innocence that can only exist in childhood. It occurs because children really believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy or Mickey Mouse. My nephew showed me that this isn’t entirely true. We took him to Reptilia, a zoo for reptiles and left with a happy little boy and a newly purchased green snake. When we returned home, my son Dustin named the snake “Harry” and it stuck. Harry went everywhere with Aden and he spoke to the snake constantly.
At some point I was on the floor with him and getting into the spirit of his imaginative play. “Oh no Harry!” I said “Don’t bite me!”
Aden promptly replied.”Don’t worry Marshie. He can’t bite. He’s just pretend.” And then almost condescendingly he added, “he’s just plastic.”
Wow! Children know it’s pretend and yet they can still become immersed. Which means we can too. I began thinking and remembered years ago an incident with Gabi when she was about seven. She had just begun losing teeth and was very excited each time with the tooth fairy’s arrival and deposit. One day, she came home from school and announced, “my friend told me that the tooth fairy is not real – that it’s really my parents!” I felt sad that this bubble was about to burst and spent some time trying to convince her that the tooth fairy did indeed exist. Eventually she wore me down and I told her the truth. With that, she ran to her room and cried for ages. I was puzzled. She had really wanted to know. She had even said things like, “I’m not a baby any more. You can tell me.”
Reflecting now, I think that Gabi knew all along that the tooth fairy wasn’t real but she really wanted to believe that she was. Believing was adding joy in her life and we took that away by removing the myth. I’m not suggesting that we lie to our kids but I do think that we should spend more time teaching them the importance of holding onto their imaginations. It is the super power of children and if we foster it correctly it can become the super power of adults too.