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Thursday, March 29, 2012

How do you teach your kids what's real?

When your kids start asking "When's Darth Vader's birthday?" it makes you wonder if they are having trouble distinguishing fact from fiction.

You must do what you feel is right, of course.
Right now they are leaping and shouting in the woods next to our yard dressed as their favorite Star Wars characters. It's a happy sight to a mom like me who loves both Star Wars and imaginative play. But I know later on I'll be plagued with lots of questions that show me they still don't get the fact that people in Star Wars are actors playing the parts of characters in a story.

Questions like "Why don't they show the Jedi sleeping?" and "Do Jedi have houses?" and "If Yoda was 900 years old in Return of the Jedi how old was he in A Phantom Menace?" (Ok that last one could be solved with simple math but I'm trying to make a point about how much they obsess about these characters.)

My boys frequently start sentences with, "With the Force I could..."I love the imagination but I also worry that they are going to grow up thinking the Jedi Academy is a legitimate option for secondary education.

It's not just the movies either. Two of my kids anthropomorphize their stuffed animals. I did that, too. Heck I still do it. Here are two tweets from January 2012:
There's a lot in a kid's world that's fantasy. Talking trains, talking cars, talking toys, talking dinosaurs. Dear old Santa Claus is fantasy and I know one day they are going to be devastated and could accuse us of lying to them when they learn the truth. Will they believe me when I argue we lied for the "right reasons?" What if they ask "Is God real?"

I've never been a big doubter. I struggled to distinguish fantasy from reality as a kid. When I learned the horrible truth about Santa and the Keebler Elves I also began to doubt God. Because if my favorite fairy stories weren't true, why should my favorite Bible stories be true?

My oldest and middle talk about Jesus like he's a neighbor, like he's someone we're going to run into at the Mall. They talk about him like he's real.  Not real as in "his teachings give us good guidance for living a moral life" but real as in "Does Jesus poop?"

Why is it so confusing? We surround our kids with fantasy and then strip it all away and tell them to grow up. CCD is teaching my son that God made him. While I do believe that children are a miracle, I'm a little worried when I hear him say, "I think either God or monkeys made people."

I can't raise a creationist. But I don't want to raise a kid without an imagination. How can we walk that fine line?

What's a parent to do?


  1. EXCELLENT! I'm struggling with something similar right now. My soon-to-be 4 yo is asking questions about death because his great grandma and grandpa recently passed away. And while I'm not overly religious, I want to teach him the same christian principles I was raised on - I think. I just don't know how to explain it to him so that I don't scare him but he still gets it. And despite my best efforts to do so, he still has logistical questions. He's too smart for his age, I think.

  2. It's a struggle for sure. My 7 year old tells us frequently that my grandfather is the "closest to dying" because he's the oldest in the family. I don't want to scare the crap out of my kid and tell him people can die anytime, any age. He literally thinks that you hit age 100 and kick the bucket.
    Someone should invent a website or phone line where parents can get perfect answers for their too-smart kids.