What do Your Kids Believe?
At this time of year there is much discussion among parents about the man in red. There are several of our friends who are against the Santa Myth, preferring as they say, to “be real” with their kids. They are shocked that my kids, and in particular my daughter, a very intelligent, gifted child, quote “still believes”.
My spouse and I have always encouraged our kids to believe in Santa Claus, magic, and fairy tales. It is important to us for several reasons that they hold onto these beliefs for as long as they can.
Many who know me, are shocked to learn that I openly encourage the construct of “make believe” with my kids. They feel that children should “see the world as it is” rather than engage in escapist activities.
While I also do not believe in shielding children from reality, the power to make believe has a special place in my heart. I lost my innocence as a child too soon. When I was almost four, my brother died before my eyes when he was hit by a car. The ability to “make believe” was how I survived as a young kid. The power to craft stories, develop entire universes and spin sagas in my head was gave me the ability to imagine a different life. In my make believe world my parents didn’t fight, life wasn’t so lonely and as immigrant kids, we did not live on the poor East side of town, but rather, in a fancy beautiful home, wanting for nothing.
This ability, to imagine a different reality from the present, is also the one that led me to being an Entrepreneur. It is the ability to see one thing and believe that another solution, another way of “doing” can exist. It is the one that allows me to imagine answers that others do not see and build “new realities”. The ability to build a model that solves a problem, creates something new, or improves something that exists. It really is the ability to hold onto two models simultaneously, evaluating, envisioning and constructing.
Imagination is a Gift
The power to use our imaginations is a gift. While believing in Santa may seem like the stuff of childhood and a mark of innocence, these beliefs can actually help to shape children into better problem solvers, dreamers and visionaries. We need to encourage more of this, but to also give our kids the tools to reconstruct these realities as they grow. So when my daughter is ready to move beyond the “Santa Myth”, we will be there to answer any questions she may have, and allow her the space to build her own story.
In the meanwhile, she and my son, will continue to speak in “Coco Malenza” (the language they have spoken only to each other since they were toddlers), draw pictures of monsters and creatures they invent, imagine themselves with super powers and get excited by the magical exploits of their Elf.
I know these days will not last forever. One day soon, these magical moments will be replaced by crushes, the angst of teen years and the responsibilities of growing up. I hope, for their sake and mine, they can hold onto that ability to dream, to imagine a reality different than their present, because I believe, this is the same power that builds great work of art, sends human into space, and finds cures for our worst diseases. Humans need a little more magic because the challenges we continue to face in our world, only will continue to increase and become more complex.
So let your kids believe in the man in the red suit for a little while longer, it likely won’t do much harm, and could in fact, lay the groundwork for making the next medical or technological breakthrough. Worst case scenario, they could become an entrepreneur.