The Story’s The Thing

May 7, 2010

sowagirlMy mother was and still is an inveterate teller of tall tales, especially in conversation with children. She delights in the wide-eyed fascination of children with all things fantastic, and decided very early in her career as a mother that it was part of her job to keep the eyes of her own children and those of any children who accidentally wandered into range of hearing as wide as possible.

Accordingly, I grew up in a home in which it seemed entirely possible that there were sea creatures living in the plumbing and gnomes hiding in the closets. There were fairies and elves and imps and other magical creatures in the woods behind our house, and they lived in harmony with the animals there – the squirrels and birds that I saw every day, and the raccoons and skunks that I saw less often but knew well from the tracks in our backyard, tracks that my mother was very careful to point out and explain as evidence of the late-night forest creature moondances that occurred a few times each month. I knew that the forest creatures maintained harmony in their community through the frequent town-hall meetings that they held in a mossy stump – I knew this because my mother showed me exactly where they all sat during these meetings and held up various broken twigs and branches (used as benches) as evidence. I knew that I should never, ever pick toadstools, because if I did so I would be destroying the shelter of the littlest creatures of the forest.

I also knew that my sister and I came from a cabbage patch, and that if we unscrewed our bellybuttons, our bums would fall off. When I got old enough to start doubting these tales, I would confront my mother upon each telling: are you telling me a story?

Of course I am, my darling, she’d reply. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not telling you the truth.

There are some who insist that telling stories is lying, and that lying to our children undermines our credibility as parents. Do you tell your child that Santa (or God) wants them to put their toys away? When your child asks where the sun goes at the end of the day, do you tell them the truth or do you say, a la the Von Trapp children, that the sun has gone to bed and now must they? If you do, you are lying – say those who do not believe in the power and utility of stories – and by lying you are undermining truth, and by undermining truth you are undermining reason, and undermining reason is harmful, and bad.

I think of my mother when I consider these arguments because my mother never let the hard facts get in the way of a good story. She had it on good authority that the sun left our neighborhood at the end of the day so that he could go light up the neighborhoods of other children, who needed light so that they could play outside. She also had it on good authority that Curious George’s favorite food was lima beans, and that both God and Santa were always very happy when I picked up my toys. She knew the Easter Bunny’s phone number and corresponded regularly with Tatiana, Queen of the Fairies. She told me about the phone calls and shared Tatiana’s letters. If I was attentive and careful and respectful of animals and nature, she told me, perhaps one day I could correspond with them, too.

The question is, was this deception? And if it was, does it matter?

In Plato’s Republic, the character of Socrates explains that there is a very great difference between a noble or fine lie, and a lie of the soul. The latter is the sort of lie that deceives in the most fundamental way – it turns a soul away from truth, puts that soul (understood as the seat of reason, among other things) on a path to ignorance. This is the worst kind of lie, because it corrupts the part of our being that is most uniquely human – that is, our reason, our ability (and desire) to seek out truth. The noble lie, on the other hand, tells the truth figuratively. Plato, among other classical philosophers, suggested that not every human soul was capable of perceiving and comprehending ‘truth,’ but that every human soul – every soul possessing the uniquely human faculty of reason, even in its most nascent form – could be turned toward truth. Set on the right path, oriented toward more correct opinions. Noble lies accomplish this work – they orient the souls of those who aren’t able, or are not yet able, to pursue truth directly.

When my mother told me that toadstools were shelters for magical creatures that I couldn’t see, she was, it might be argued, telling me a noble lie. Her lie did not obscure the truth; rather, it illuminated part of the truth for a mind that was not ready to perceive it in its fullness. Toadstools do indeed protect and nurture many creatures that human eyes cannot or do not see, and I should indeed be respectful of toadstools, and other flora and fauna, when I come across these. They are not mine to trample or use for my own amusement, and there is far greater potential stimulation to be gained from them in appreciating them as the remarkable works of nature that they are.

A very young child might not be capable of understanding the laws of planetary motion and the principles of a solar system, but she can understand that the sun has disappeared from our view, that it does so every day, and that it has something to do with the cycle of the day. We can explain that straightforwardly, or we can wrap it up in a story. Wrapping it up in a story presents the truth, or some portion of the truth, in terms that a child can understand. In terms that capture the child’s imagination, and so their curiosity.

There is something to be said for serving up the truth straightforwardly to children – for telling them the facts about the movement of the Earth and the sun, and the facts about the North Pole and about existence or non-existence of Tooth Fairies, and the truth about how little we know about what happens to us when we die. I certainly believe that we should never underestimate children’s capacity for reason, and their ability to appreciate and understand ‘facts.’ And I believe strongly that the ‘truth’ – so far as I or anyone understands it – about the natural world and everything in it is as fascinating as any story that my mother ever concocted.

But I also think that what we gain from wrapping the truth in a story – and, occasionally, weaving fantastical tales that seem to incorporate no measure of truth – is this: we communicate to our children that the world is not prosaic, that it is a place of wonder. We teach them that the world, that life, holds many unanswered questions, and that even those questions that seem to have been settled are worth interrogating. We teach them to believe, and to doubt. We provoke their curiosity – we make them lovers of discovery, which in turn makes them lovers of wisdom. Philosophic puppies, as Socrates had it, but only in the best sense: joyfully bounding towards that which they do not know. Experiencing the unknown as an opportunity for play.

Still… my mother’s insistence, for years, that if I unscrewed my belly-button my bum would fall off is clearly an example of maternal deception. As was her insistence that there were never any mushrooms in her spaghetti sauce, that marshmallows were made of whipped cloud, and that if I lied the bottom of my tongue would turn black. And there’s an argument to be made that the belly-button lie might have contributed in some small part to some body-image confusion. But do these lies matter? My mother approached motherhood, and every second of interaction with her children, as an opportunity for fun, and my experience of childhood was entirely shaped by this ethos of laughter and discovery and play. And it had everything to do, too, with developing my love of story and books and ideas (supported, obviously, by the abundance of books in our household and weekly visits to libraries, but that’s another post.)

None of this is to say that deception qua deception, deception in the form of lies of the soul, should be embraced wholeheartedly. Only that it might have a place, alongside the nobler, poetic forms of lying, in making the worlds of our children rich and vibrant and alive with possibility. So it is that when my daughter asks me, are you telling me a story? I tell her, yes, yes, I am. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.

(What do you think? Do you tell your children stories in this way? Or are you a committed rationalist? Do YOU believe in Santa? And – what fantastical stories did your parents tell YOU? Do YOU tell?)

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    Amy K May 7, 2010 at 1:25 am

    I think Santa and other imaginative stories are noble lies that make childhood more fun and magical. All little children should have a few years of believing that if they look hard enough, they might spot a unicorn hiding in the forest. They’ll figure out the truth on their own soon enough.

    Catherine May 7, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    *I* still want to spot a unicorn in the forest!
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    Catherine May 7, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    (They’re there, aren’t they? AREN’T THEY?)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    Amy K May 8, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    @Catherine, Now that you mention it, I guess I do too! I just expect it a little less now that I’m older and it still hasn’t happened yet. My toddler and I will have to start looking for them together.

    Jo May 7, 2010 at 2:59 am

    I will most definitely try to weave stories and magic for my children as best I can. I believed in fairies and Santa (probably up to an embarrassing age) and had a crazy imagination growing up. Of course, this led to sleepless nights and bad dreams that would probably not have existed were it not for all these stories in my head, but it led to such a rich and creative childhood that I lived out to the very fullest. There is a great element of mystery in the universe and I don’t believe it’s harmful to play that up a little. Of course when I was 10 and my mom left me for 20 minutes to run to the store, I got so scared I ran to the neighbour’s because I thought aliens were coming… so. (I also had a mean big brother.)

    Side note; have you seen the film “Big Fish”? This post made me think of it.

    J from Ireland May 7, 2010 at 5:08 am

    My Dad always says “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story” I am all for story telling to my kids, my kids believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa, God and the possibility of an invitation to attend Hogwarts at the age of 12. I don’t think of it as lying, EVER.

    Catherine May 7, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I still intend to go to Hogwarts, and I’m almost 40.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    SaltwaterMom May 7, 2010 at 7:14 am

    I began reading Plato’s Republic out loud to my pregnant belly 3 months ago. I believe I got to page 11, which is about 10 pages farther than I even did at University. This post (And Songs of Innocence and Experience, Redux from two days ago) are inspiring me to pick it up again. It is small enough (in size, not in thought) to handle while breastfeeding my now two-and-a-half-week-old daughter.

    (And, may I add, Songs of Innocence ought to be required reading for any new parent).

    As for stories, tell away! Even as an adult, it’s good to believe anything may be possible. And if we’re watering down the truth for our children, well allegory and metaphor have long been used to explain the world. If it ain’t broke, and all that.
    .-= SaltwaterMom´s last blog ..Named =-.

    Catherine May 7, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    It’s a great book. Not the easiest read, but well worth the effort. Ditto for the Symposium.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    Mama Bean May 7, 2010 at 9:32 am

    I can’t wait to tell my children stories. In fact, he’s only six months old, but I tell my son all sorts of fantasies about who I am, where he lives, what he can expect from life. (For one thing, I tell him he’s the most special person in the whole world, which is true to no one else but me <3) I enjoyed this post very much – inspired me to think up even more stories. It also made me think of Life of Pi – this idea of noble lies, the stories we tell ourselves AROUND truth. Life is not prosaic, it IS magic. it is OK when our language reflects that magic. Thanks for starting my Friday right :)

    Catherine May 8, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    you’re welcome :)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    carolyn May 7, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Love it. I think stories are really important. Where else would we get our sense of fun and magic? I might have to draw the unscrewing the belly button and the bum falling off thing. That’s delightful! Happy Mother’s Day …
    .-= carolyn´s last blog ..Mother’s Day: 100% Off. =-.

    Catherine May 7, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Oh, dude, if you draw it you HAVE to share it!
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    Erin May 7, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I have to say that it depends on the child. I have one who is a lover of language, to whom I read and wrote stories with for as long as I can remember. My other, not so much. She has a diagnosis which does not allow her to understand it. Which is makes things a bit difficult. Telling her stories in her mind = lying, and there is no difference between the two, even at 15 she misses metaphors and allegories. At 9 she screamed at us about the tooth fairy because why would you tell a little kids something like that, that isn’t even true.

    Like so many things in parenthood, it depends on your child, and getting to know and understand your child is imperative. I have a child that weaves the most wonderful stories about wizards and knights, even the swords have names! And another who doesn’t see the point.
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..Please don’t ask =-.

    Catherine May 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    @Erin, that’s an excellent point. My nephew, Tanner, is mildly autistic and he sometimes has trouble with the make-believe, to the extent that it sometimes frustrates him, for the same reasons you describe of your child, above. So, yes, absolutely.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    Forgotten May 7, 2010 at 10:01 am

    I believe that Santa existed in one form or another at some point in time and that we are here to carry on his tradition. I also believe that we should give of ourselves what we expect of others.

    All that to say I like this and I think stories are wonderful things and not every story has to teach a moral or teach anything really. Just exercising your imagination is wonderful.
    .-= Forgotten´s last blog ..Rescue me… =-.

    Catherine May 8, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    @Forgotten, I think that that was part of my mom’s intention – to compel us to exercise our imaginations, for imagination’s sake. That’s a good in itself, after all :)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    Judy May 7, 2010 at 10:05 am

    I love the stories. I wish I’d thought of the one about the sun going to shine on other children’s neighborhoods so they can play outside when my kids/grandkids were small, I love that! And in a way, that is what the sun does, scientifically.

    I remember as a child believing in fairies and my grandmother teaching me to sew tiny clothing for them, and make dishes for them out of acorn caps, and I wrote them long letters, and was never disappointed the next day, when I would get up to find thank you notes from them, written in a tiny tiny handwriting. I grew up with Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, and so did my kids – and my grandkids too. It didn’t harm any of us, it just added wonder and magic to childhood.

    And I do believe in Santa. That same grandmother told me, when I was “too old” to believe, that Santa Claus is the Spirit of Christmas, and that’s why both have the initials “SC”. But I can tell you this. When my kids were growing up, we often were really short on money at Christmas time, and sometimes I did not know how I was going to manage presents for the kids – but something always happened and somehow the money always came in. If that isn’t Santa, who is it?

    Nick May 7, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I wish I told more fantastical tales just for the amusement of the kids but I even feel a bit guilty about telling the tales of Santa and the Toothfairy (although I do it). The reason for this I’m sure is because of my own childhood where we never celebrated Christmas and were told there was no Santa Claus. BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, we were told bible stories as fact. As in you better do what God wants or you will be swallowed by a whale (Jonah and the big fish) or taken with all evil doers in a deluge (Noah and the Ark). Of course, being a child I believed for many years that these things actually happened. It has been in my adulthood that I have had an awakening from these stories. So I wonder if that is why I’m not much of tale spinner? I like stories though, who doesn’t? I just worry how it will affect my kids scope of reality.

    Catherine May 8, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    @Nick, I think that how Bible stories are told raises interesting questions. My parents – who were faithful – never suggested to me that those stories were *literally* true, and when I asked, they would turn the question back to me (‘what do you think?’). Which forced me, at a young age, to consider how I wanted to understand those stories. At some point, I loved the idea that someone could get swallowed by a whale, or build a tower to heaven, and I think that thinking about those things as “true” was oen way of getting to their meaning. Do I *now* think that Babel Tower was real? I’m actually not sure ;)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    Nick May 8, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    @Catherine, It’s not all that often that I can engage with someone who has in depth knowledge of Bible stories. I had forgotten about the Tower of Babel! But what about the women fighting over the baby and King Solomon? Or Abraham being asked to kill his son for God? GAH! ;)

    I like that your parents said “what do you think”. I would have liked that for myself more often. I strive to do the same for my own children. My oldest, 5, has quite the vivid imagination, despite his mothers rather droll sense of story telling (hanging head in shame). I enjoy HIS stories and never discourage them. I try to keep up.

    (This is dorky but I’m just thrilled that you replied to MY post! I quite enjoy your writing…no average mommy blogger for sure.)

    Steph May 7, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I really love this post. I believe very strongly that children deserve a little magic. When I discovered Santa wasn’t real I was crushed. So my dad told me “Santa is real as long as you believe in him”. To this day I believe in the magic that is Santa Claus. Why shouldn’t children be raised with as much magic as possible?? The real world will slap them around soon enough. Maybe when the real world comes slapping they can recall the magic of their childhood and be better able to deal.
    .-= Steph´s last blog ..Randomness =-.

    Asa's Mummy May 7, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Facts are good. Facts are fine. We can learn a lot from facts. But there are some things that facts can’t really explain – like right, and love, and beauty. Truth goes so much deeper than facts, and speaks to us as complete beings, rather than just walking brains.

    In response to Nick, above, I know that Bible stories are all too often presented as “fact”, but there is compelling evidence to suggest that this is a post-Enlightenment phenomenon, as Fact and Reason won out over Truth. But then, if you think about it, there’s also a real reason that Jesus spoke in parables to teach us about God and love and relationship…
    .-= Asa’s Mummy´s last blog ..Sippy Cup =-.

    Catherine May 8, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    @Asa’s Mummy, yes (re: response to Nick) also this ;)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    red pen mama May 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    My children know Santa and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. My older daughter also knows that the sun sets because the earth is shaped like a ball and turns in space.

    I like to mix it up.
    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..The Whole Tooth =-.

    Lauren May 7, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks for this post.

    As a first-time mom to a nine-month old, I have spent some time considering how I will parent my child (as if it this event is somewhere in the future, past all the poop/puke/sleep stage!) and wondering which tricks I will re-use from my childhood, and which ones I will forgo.

    My dad was a storyteller. He had us convinced that we could only get potatoes in PEI, and the ones that we picked up at the farm on our way to the lake here in Manitoba were hidden in the dirt because they were so precious. He also told us that the potatoes in PEI were grown under the island, and that you had to dive underneath to pick them. (Yeah, my cousins thought I was an idiot when we went to the beach with them and asked them if we could pick potatoes.)

    Some other stories…

    Freckles were fly poop, and could be washed off with mare’s milk.

    The whole milk we drank as children, which came in large glass bottles, was bull’s milk.

    The farm animals in PEI had shorter legs on one side than the other so that they could stand on the hills and not roll down.

    Despite some, okay, many, awkward moments when I did go to a farm, I cherish these stories. I had the privilege of hearing these stories retold to my nieces and nephews when they were young, and they live on in family folklore. When we gather as a family, barely a meal will go by without a “remember when Dad told us…”

    I hope I can tell some of these stories to my little girl with the same conviction as my father. The little twinkle in his eye letting us know that this was a “story” was like a special secret between us. I won’t be using the wooden spoon in my house, but I can’t wait to tell M where potatoes come from.

    Her Bad Mother May 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    We learned about the one-leg longer cattle, too – my mom and dad told me that they were called ‘Sidehill Gougers’! AWESOME.

    Adventures In Babywearing May 7, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I want to sit at your Mother’s feet and hear her stories. I am the same way. YES I still believe in faeries and Santa and I absolutely think animals talk when we aren’t around. Maybe just my heart wants to believe it, and I want my children to believe in this way, too. Or at least have the opportunity to consider it… :)

    .-= Adventures In Babywearing´s last blog ..Adventures In Babywearing 2.0 =-.

    Catherine May 7, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    she still tells those kinds of stories. if anything, she’s gotten more extreme with the stories that she tells her grandchildren ;)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    mamabird May 7, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    My daughter is 16 months today and after reading this, I am going to work hard at finding ways to make the world magical and full of wonder for her. I think it will also make things more enjoyable for me! These days I do not feel inspired often, but I thank you greatly for doing so today.
    .-= mamabird´s last blog ..A visit and painting have eaten up the past two weeks! =-.

    Ali May 7, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    My almost five year old is fascinated by Toy Story. He asked me if his toys are alive when he’s not there, I told him yeah, probably. Sometimes, I even go and move them when he’s at school. It’s so cute to see him sneaking up the stairs and peeping around the door to see if he can catch them playing without him!

    Catherine May 8, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I used to totally believe that my toys came to life when I wasn’t there. TOTALLY.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    cagey (Kelli Oliver George) May 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    @Catherine, I desperately wanted to believe this,too! I remember at the age of 5, setting them up and praying/wishing so hard that they would come alive over night. Each morning I would wake up with great hope. Too funny – I had completely forgotten that memory until you mentioned yours.
    .-= cagey (Kelli Oliver George)´s last blog ..The Mother’s Day Gift Guide Men Wish They Could Write (for Their Wives) =-.

    cagey (Kelli Oliver George) May 7, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    We play the Santa game and to a very small, teeny, miniscule extent do the Easter Bunny. But. I just cannot weave complicated tales for my kids. Santa and his buddies come and go – that is about it to their backstories.

    When my 4.5 asked what will happen to our cat when she dies, I had to tell the truth – she’ll go in our back yard, where she will Ago back into the earth and make it richer. And he was okay with it. I suspect to some, this may seem cruel, but I just cannot lie to him and teach him something that I do not believe in myself.
    .-= cagey (Kelli Oliver George)´s last blog ..The Mother’s Day Gift Guide Men Wish They Could Write (for Their Wives) =-.

    Catherine May 8, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I get that. It helps me (as it helped my mom) that we both kinda believe this stuff ourselves. That we actually kinda wonder whether their COULD be fairies out there. So even on that level it’s not actually lying ;)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    cagey (Kelli Oliver George) May 8, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    @Catherine, Ah, I wasn’t trying to say that mothers should/should not lie to their kids. I see how my comment could have indicated that. No, what is really going on is that I am just beginning to confront these sorts of life/death questions from my 4.5 year old and this post hit upon that. I am navigating how to answer them without scarring AND scaring him, but while still being true to myself. Believing in heaven would be a lot easier.

    I wish I could believe in fairies. Sounds more fun! ;-)
    .-= cagey (Kelli Oliver George)´s last blog ..The Mother’s Day Gift Guide Men Wish They Could Write (for Their Wives) =-.

    Nick May 8, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    @cagey (Kelli Oliver George), I get where you’re coming from. Our son has been asking lots of death questions here too. I also get Catherine. This definitely falls in the category that we’re all parenting in the rhythm that feels right to us. I don’t think any of us want to “squelch” the beautiful imaginations of our children, but we also need to feel comfortable in our guidance of life’s BIG questions.

    carrien (she laughs at the days) May 7, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    It’s a good question. We all live in a story first. Reason is not our first instinct when we try to make sense of things. So many things defy reason and the story we believe about life becomes what mainly informs us.

    I know this is true. Yet, I’m a total realist when it comes to telling my kids stuff.

    I couldn’t go more than half an hour with my 5 yo wondering who filled her St. Nicholas day shoe before telling her it was me. Her disappointment was palpable. It wasn’t that she believed that St. nick was going to fill her shoe but she did believe ti possible for someone else to do it in his tradition (that’s how I tell the story) and she was disappointed that I didn’t wait to see if someone else would fill her shoe for her, rather than doing it myself.

    Things like that make me pause, and this post, and wonder if she needs more wonder, more story, more fairies. That’s where I sit, wondering.
    .-= carrien (she laughs at the days)´s last blog ..Stuff =-.

    Lona May 7, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I tell my son fantastic stories. They’re ludicrous, ridiculous and oftentimes completely unrealistic, but we lay together and laugh, and at 4 years old, my son now loves to tell me stories.

    Of course, there are things I have to be truthful about: how Mommy’s car got totalled, why he has to go to preschool every day, etc. Of course, those truthful moments haven’t dulled his imagination. At all.

    And it seems to be his preschool that has the biggest problem. His school has repeatedly called his father and me because he “is pretending to be other people,” among them Batman, Spiderman, a Kimodo dragon, a rainbow and a talking skateboard. He knows that he is none of those things, but refuses to drop character, especially when people tell him to. Is that my fault? Maybe. But I appreciate a creative kid, even if other people don’t.

    And that was me, writing the longest comment ever.
    .-= Lona´s last blog ..It’s proof. I’m the Greatest Mommy. My kid says so. Neiner, neiner! =-.

    Her Bad Mother May 7, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    I think that that – the pretending to be other characters – including a rainbow – AWESOME. Awesome SQUARED. His preschool is lacking a soul.

    Her Bad Mother May 7, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Gah. *IS* awesome.

    Issa May 7, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I was told stories and I tell stories. I do however tell the truth when asked. I figure if they want to know truths, I will give them that. I love asking my oldest though, think about it for a minute, do you really want to know the truth? She surprises me sometimes and says no.

    I think believing in magic is one of the greatest gifts you can give a kid. Not all agree with me. That’s okay. I don’t need them too. I just hope my kids aren’t the ones who are completely jaded by life, at age 12.
    .-= Issa´s last blog ..Bits of random, because without it, I’d have nothing to post =-.

    The Grown Up Teenager May 8, 2010 at 2:55 am

    I’m probably a lone naysayer on this one, but blame it on my parents. My parents didn’t believe in lying to me. That included Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, etc. I’ve never believed in any of them.

    Sure, I knew the stories. I had Christmas books as a kid, saw the movies, etc…but from an early age, I was told they were just that: stories, or movies. Fictional. They were great to pretend and imagine, but they weren’t real.

    For anyone who worries that this will make a kid jaded, I don’t find that’s my experience at all. Matter of fact, I like knowing my mom doesn’t lie to me, and didn’t when I was a kid either. Did she shield me from adult things? Absolutely. But did she ever tell me a man who lives in the North pole broke into my house and left me presents? No.

    And I’m okay with it.
    .-= The Grown Up Teenager´s last blog ..Stop stepping on my dang toes =-.

    Catherine May 8, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Cagey had a similar story above. And it’s fine – different strokes for different folks – I know plenty of people who grew with determinedly rationalist parents and they clearly didn’t suffer for it (*and* they’re perfectly capable of creative thinking ;) )
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..The Story’s The Thing =-.

    pixielation May 8, 2010 at 9:06 am

    My 8 year old is fascinated by the concept of truth or story, and she often quizzes me on things – is this real, is that real – are ghosts real, are there really pots of gold at the end of rainbows.

    She believes in fairies wholeheartedly. But she’s scared of goblins and other underworld types.

    She also has a friend who will straight faced tell a tale of a magical door in her bedroom, and then when asked if that’s real will say of course. And then my daughter gets confused, wants to know the truth, and ends up calling her friend a liar.

    It doesn’t help that this friend is most certainly a child who lives in her own fairytale, and often does tell lies (she broke her leg and it mended in 3 days for example).

    We’ve had to sit down and tell my daughter that we all know her friend makes up stories, but causing a fight and calling her a liar when she’s talking about a magical doorway isn’t going to help their friendship at all. She knows now to just give her a wink, tap the side of the nose and smile.
    .-= pixielation´s last blog ..How to train your husband =-.

    Susana S P May 8, 2010 at 9:23 am

    There’s facts, and then there’s truth. Stories get to truth. Well, the good ones do. It’s bad enough that we have to be adults and can’t decide the table is really a swan, I would never take that away from my child. I will try not to hide any facts from her, either, but I don’t think the two are incompatible.I mean, I keep telling her she is a fairy, who came out from fairy land when she heard we had mashed potatoes here, too. And we heard wings fluttering, and made a party. And it is all true.

    Selena May 8, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I adore this read, and want to hang with your moms! Twirl and weave! Your own words are such magic enough to know that it was a darn good thing she weaved as such for you.

    I could not imagine down to a smidgen of a wee faeries nose hair not ever spouting tales of fantasy to my little guy. Wherever would we be as a human race without the likes of Lewis, Tolkein, Dhal, Caroll (to name a few). They wound philosophy, fantasy, science fiction, industry….so many intrinsic streams of necessary thought, theory and discovery. Discovery made interesting, mighty and grand when paired with magic.

    Swoosh, boom and furrow I shall with creating vast worlds of wonder for my little dude. That is not to say there won’t be equal parts of realism tales of the beauty and magic that the universe as is has to hold. I just don’t want to discriminate.
    .-= Selena´s last blog ..On My Way To Etsy! =-.

    Haley-O (Cheaty) May 8, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    I love when you talk Plato – particularly the Republic. I think these stories definitely have a place among the “nobler, more poetic forms of lying,” as you put it. YES.

    My daughter has managed to differentiate among “worlds,” as she calls it. There’s the world of fairies and mermaids, etc., and then there’s “our world.” So, I frequently hear her ask things like “are they in OUR world?” And I think that’s healthy. She can explore and ponder the world of imagination while staying grounded in the “real” world.

    That illustration is beautiful, by the way….
    .-= Haley-O (Cheaty)´s last blog ..Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Rascal Gets a Big-Boy Bed =-.

    Haley-O (Cheaty) May 8, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    “Poetic” lies are also good for getting my daughter outside when she’d rather stay home. We’ve been known to go outside just to look for fairies…! When we’re there, we find all sorts of “our world” things instead, like snails….
    .-= Haley-O (Cheaty)´s last blog ..Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Rascal Gets a Big-Boy Bed =-.

    OLP May 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    It is so true, a good story puts a smile on everyones face no matter their age.

    LD May 9, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Fiction can be truer than facts. That’s why people write novels and stories– if they didn’t believe that we could understand something more clearly through them, some of our greatest writers would have just been reporters.

    Santa is alive and well at our house–as is the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. They’re not lies; they’re life skills. Children who don’t have the opportunity to believe in magic miss something. I see that in my sometimes-to-serious husband. Children that aren’t asked and given permission to stretch their imaginations are deprived of one of childhood’s most important things.

    Your mother sounds wonderful.

    Keli Maye May 10, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I doubt I can say this without sounding judgmental–which I don’t mean to be; I fully appreciate the love of Santa and fairies, etc.–but for me, the real world itself is so magical, I’ve never felt the need to embellish. My son is full of wonder at the roundness of the Earth and the way it spins round and round in the sunlight. He loves to hear about the tiny explosions in the engines of cars, and that they are powered by long-gone dinosaurs. I tell him how falling water makes our electricity, and we talk about all the wires hidden in our walls, bringing that electricity to the lights and outlets. He listens raptly to tales of how people lived long, long ago, before electricity and cars and plastic. The world we live in really is a crazy, astonishing, wonderful place.

    Her Bad Mother May 10, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Oh, I totally agree – I just think, too, that that very magic lends itself to supporting the idea that things are even MORE magical than they seem. There are rainbows – why couldn’t there be leprechauns?

    Alexicographer May 10, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Our family, too, has those belly buttons. As I’ve never unscrewed mine I cannot say … perhaps my Mum is telling the truth.

    As for me, I think I always understood that that part, at least, was silliness, and I think silliness is probably in general underrated and under-appreciated (at least in the 21st century US) as a child-rearing tool. Saturday my 3 y.o. took a bad tumble (many scratches + big bump on forehead, poor soul) on a (graveled) trail we were walking on in the woods, and of course I scooped him up and held him and soothed him. But just as he got to the point where he was no longer gasping through sobs we were also approaching a creek, so I gently said, “Hmmm. I think I know what I can do that will make you feel better! I think if I throw! you! in! the! creek! [bouncing son on hip and walking toward creek] you! will! feel! much! better! I! think! you! need! to! get! all! wet!” He knew I was kidding (honest). But the thought of landing in the creek, and just enough belief that just maybe I’d do it, was a good distraction at that point and returned us to a happy time out in the woods.

    I do concur, though, that an approach appropriate for one kid may not be for another.

    Her Bad Mother May 12, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Ah, silliness. My mother was a gifted practitioner of that, too :)

    Keitha May 11, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I am a believer in fantastical stories with truth woven in between. Children’s minds are wonderous and creative, magical stories enhance and encourage that.

    *I* in some part of my brain await the arrival of Santa on Christmas Eve, even as I am wrapping up the gifts to put under the tree.

    Her Bad Mother May 12, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Oh, yes – *sigh* – me, too.

    Jennifer May 11, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    We try to play it both ways. We weave in the stories, but he’s well aware of what is and isn’t real. Besides, we got the reject party girl tooth fairy that doesn’t show up for work.
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..I’m Firing The Tooth Fairy =-.

    Her Bad Mother May 12, 2010 at 8:15 am

    I think that I know that tooth fairy…

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