Parenting: The Life of Pie

The Next Family

By Ann Brown, Parenting Consultant

I went to see “The Life of Pi” during Thanksgiving weekend. It gave me much to think about in terms of what we choose to believe in life. It also gave me a lot to think about in terms of why, even though I do not care about candy at all – I am way more of a wine, bread, and cheese overeater – when I get to a movie theater, I become obsessed with Red Vines. I almost thought about that more than I watched the movie.

Oh great. Now I want Red Vines. Hold on while I run over to the Lake Twin.

The holiday season brings with it a lot of opportunities to bring children into moments of suspended reality and pure wonder. Life, actually, gives us a lot of opportunities to bring children into moments of wonder (although what I paint with a broad stroke as “wonder” is what some people might call “science”. In my defense, I was a music major in college. Science classes? Um, no thank you), but at the holiday season the opportunities are easier to find.

So, me, I am going to weigh in here as PRO wonder. Pro-miracle and pro-magic.  (If you happen to have children who can read, you might want to keep the next few paragraphs out of their sight…)

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that I think it’s great that kids believe in Santa. I’m Jewish, and all things Christmas hold a certain unattainable, probably unrealistically Norman Rockwell kind of allure for me, whereas our family Hanukah parties more resemble Picasso in his Expressionist period. But even more than that, I am all for balancing the overly factual, overly information-laden kind of world into which your kids were born.

I believe there is a difference between telling your child a lie and protecting wonder. Keeping wonder alive for your child is saying, “I have never seen the Tooth Fairy, but I like to believe she brought you this quarter”, whereas a lie is more like, “I know her. She hung out with me after she visited your room. We watched Big Love. She ate all the cashews out of my Moose Munch.”

When my children were little, they used to love it when I cut their apples so that the seeds formed a magical star. I made up a sweet little story about it, featuring sprites and fairy dust and all sorts of crap that I used to my advantage by turning it into a morality play in which the good little children always cleaned their rooms.

Anyway, when my kids were, like, four, they figured out that magic had nothing to do with the way the apple seeds made a star pattern. In fact, my scientific children were positively concerned about my lack of, well, smarts – a concern they hold to this day, to tell you the truth. A few years ago, when I made an offhand comment about how Philo of Alexandria (philosopher in 20 BCE) probably invented philosophy, all my horrified son could say gently to me was, “Wow. The 1960’s alternative education movement really failed you, didn’t it?”

I still don’t totally understand why what I said was stupid, but that’s a problem for another day.  The point is, my children were quick to eschew magic as an answer to how anything happens but I still tried. I believe there is value in a sense of wonder for young children.

Albert Einstein once said, “We can live life believing that everything is a miracle, or that nothing is a miracle.”

And he was at least as smart as my miracle-eschewing sons.

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