Belief and Honesty

I try to tell my children the truth - to say what I mean, to keep my promises, to answer their questions to the best and fullest extent of my ability.

But ...

I also encourage their beliefs in all things fantastical, even things I know not to be true. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Harry Potter, dragons and faeries. I don't consider this lying, but there are a surprising number of people who do.

Chickadee received a genuine imitation Harry Potter wand for Christmas. She was quite concerned that nothing happened when she tried out the spells she's memorized from the movies, and worried that she had no magical powers. So I pointed out that Harry et al didn't go to Hogwarts until they were 11, so maybe no one could do magic until that point. Then she worried about someone else in the family getting hold of the wand and accidentally turning the house into a giant lizard or something. So I said it was a safe bet that since none of us had been invited to wizarding school, we were hardcore Muggles and couldn't produce to much as a spark from her wand.

She's perfectly happy with that explanation, and patiently awaiting her 11th birthday (some 3 years off) and her invitation, in green ink, to Hogwarts or its North American counterpart. (I figure the odds are good that, by 11, she'll have outgrown this particular belief. If not, well, there's plenty of time left to burst that bubble.)

In short, I lied to her. Blatantly, and with clear conscience.

I occasionally visit parenting websites, looking for information, and a recurring theme seems to be "I promised myself I would never lie to my child. What do I tell them at Christmas when all their friends are getting presents from Santa?" I don't have a lot of respect for these people - it seems to me they either don't trust themselves enough to handle a little imagination, or are so devoted to telling the unvarnished truth that their children are the only ones still talking to them. It's one thing to be honest with your children, it's quite another to beat them over the head with TRUTH.

I'm a non-believer, one of those Scientific Types who likes Rational Explanations with Evidence (not proof, necessarily, but Good, Solid Evidence). But at the same time, I accept the possibility of the existence of fantastical things. A very faint possibility, to be sure, but I like to think that somewhere, somewhen, magic could be real. Not here, not now, but maybe a few billion years in the past or future.

And I want to let my children draw their own lines around what they believe, not impose those limits myself. I accept the possibility that this means they'll grow up to believe in alien abductions, that there really are 12 million reincarnations of Helen of Troy, that a Magic 8 Ball can predict the future.

But I'm also giving them a solid grounding in science and rationalism - Chickadee also received, and was just as excited about, a science kit, and has been known to lecture her 3-year-old brother on the properties of 'gravidy'. So I'll take my chances, and let them believe in the impossible as long as they can.