Listening to my children play superheroes:
My eldest says to my youngest: You can’t do that! He doesn’t have that power!
My youngest responds: We can pretend he does.
My eldest responds: That’s silly then it wouldn’t be real!
It sort of stabbed me in the heart. I was raised on the Isle of Can’t -
Don’t be silly! You can’t be a writer! Chinese aren’t writers! Be an accountant!
Don’t be stupid! You can’t be a baseball player! Chinese aren’t baseball players! Be smart! Be a lawyer!
I worked hard to instill “possibility” in my children. So where did I fail? When did they move onto the Isle of Can’t?
Two of my favorite holiday movies are Miracle on 34th Street and Bass and Rankin’s The Year Without a Santa Claus because they address issues of the imagination - What we tell our children they are too old to do anymore.
In parenting, because I believe we would rather be safe than sorry, our kids hit a certain age and it seems the very same make believe world that made them adorable makes them frustrating, impractical, and possibly impossible.
Somewhere along the course of our maturity, we devalued a vivid imagination. My favorite example of the power of a great imagination is the Wright Brothers, who without formal scientific training did what the many experts in their time could not – or worse believed was impossible! They flew. Something we take for granted today.
I think this time of year in particular it is important to cherish a really good imagination. In this season it’s easy to get lost at the store or the mall. So many people you need to buy for. It’s easy to confuse what’s really valuable about getting together for the holidays.
Church’s words to Virginia remain poignant despite the progress we’ve made through the years:
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.