Knox is a very sweet child. He will consider everything I say to him. Even commands of things he dislikes “You have to brush your teeth.” he will consider if I insist enough, or word it right.
I have never felt very comfortable with telling children fantasies. As stories, yes, but fantasies, no. Even before I knew of Montessori.
I was always greatly impressed with adults who can go up to children and with great assurance spin the most outrageous nonsense. I felt they must have an extremely theatrical spirit. If a child related to me their fantasies, I would look at them, slightly frightened, somewhat interested, and allow them to go on. I would try to tease out the truth in their tales, with questions; why they would wish to say these things that are completely unrelated to reality – perhaps some of it is related to reality? These are so called cases of children who are repressed and find outlets in imagination. But the children who are most eager to tell tales tend to be those who are healthy, hale, with generous parents, instead of (as in stories) the poor and downtrodden. Even Sarah Crewe, the virtuous-despite-being-pampered-and-indulged, dropped her fantasies of her doll once she became poor. In fact, if you listen, their tales are always based on something, rarely completely original. They are part and parcel of tales told to them, or shown to them. I cannot profess to have met one who, before puberty, has created truly original stories.
And now that I have my own child, I feel even more strongly that I cannot bring myself to tell him tales, to speak of fairies and goblins and even witches as truth. You see, he believes me when I tell him the names of animals and what they do, he believes me when I show him dinosaurs, even if he will never see one alive. He will believe me if I tell him of leprechauns. And for me to do that, I feel, would be betraying this trust he has in me.
Perhaps part of the reason is that I myself was never regaled consistently with fairytales from a young age. I only began to hear of such things when I first came to the US, around the age of 5 or 6. Of course there would have been the odd Hans Christian Anderson before that, but his stories are nearly always short and never wove a world, and one can safely ignore the talking animals. For when a child comes across a real goose, he/she quickly finds it a dumb animal. It cannot possibly converse like a human, but it has no need. You see, a goose in real life, with it’s rather large bosom, small smooth white feathers all over, and vicious little eyes, is so far removed from the affable and often silly creatures in the stories, that the sight of one immediately dispels the vision of the other.
So when I first heard of fairies, I was past the age of being inculcated. And however much I tried later on to believe in magic, however much I wished and willed it, I could not bring myself to believe in it. You know why I must believe in it: The prime creed of magic, as illustrated by Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell, is that you must believe in it first, for it to be true. Fairies only live if children believe in them. As an adult now on the other side, you can see what absolute nonsense this is, and can even call it entrapment. But then you would be relegated, in the stories, to the gruff and sadly out-of-it Mr. Darling.
I wonder if this gullibility is something you’re born with. This trust in the mystic. I have the greatest faith in humanity, for this reason I feel passionate about education. I believe that anyone of average intelligence can, in the right environment, grow into reasonable, loving, productive individuals. I believe that even the gullible can have their minds fortified with a good appreciation of the scientific method, perhaps a foray into the fields of research, a healthy, stress-free dose of the humanities at an early age to spark curiosity and the joy of learning. A sound, inquiring mind is possible. I believe there are those who, naturally, will find it difficult to believe in things simply told to them, even under such indefectible constructs as that narrated above (“Faith first is necessary”).
Should I convince Knox of santa now, he will eventually (my guess is around the ages of 8~10) come to realize the falsehood. And oh, when he does, how the trust will crumble in the other things! Perhaps even religion!