When Do We Disbelieve
I think that at least one easter egg should contain an insulin shot. I actually try to find
slightly less toxic items to hide in these plastic eggs I hide around my house when the
children are sleeping. Often, many of the eggs contain seeds to plant… flowers, carrots,
pumpkins… whatever the store has when I'm buying.
This year, my wife told me that I couldn't use the seeds. "Why not?" I asked. She replied,
"Because the children saw you pick them off the shelf, put them in the basket, and
saw you buy them!"
"Not to worry," I countered, "the children are at that age where they want so much to
believe that they will discount all evidence to the contrary."
Sure enough, that magical morning when the children are opening up their brightly
colored, plastic ovums, they are excited to see the same packages of seeds their father
bought yesterday. "Hey Dad, the Easter Bunny brought us seeds just like what you
My daughter is going through a phase where she enjoys pretending that fairies live
under her bed. Of course, this drives her 4 year old brother nuts.
He's quite the skeptic when he says, "Fairies don't exist… except for the tooth fairy.
That fairy is real, because she left money under your pillow that one time."
Well, I don't blame him. He doesn't see fairies, so they don't exist … except for that
bit of evidence where he parents are deliberating trying to deceive him. Yeah, he'll
probably require some therapy. He'll grow up never trusting adults again.††It is a shame that parents can't pretend and relive a wee bit of childhood magic.
And that is probably a good thing. As children, we are trusting. But being too trusting
is not a good quality in an adult. We need to be skeptical. Analyze the evidence and
make conclusions based on rationality.
In a way, it is sad to stop believing in magical creatures. Perhaps that is why so many of
us don't ever give in to the evidence, and continue to cling to wistful wants, and twist
or ignore any contrary evidence.
But what is sadder is when children die because their parents "didn't have enough faith
that God would heal" their little one. You'd think that such strong wishes would pull them
out of their fantasy world to stop by the hospital for an insulin shot, instead of watching
their daughter violently ill for over a month.‡‡ I'm referring to this incident.
I guess if science (and insulin shots) are not known and not an option, throwing coins in the river (or
looking for wishing wells in the sky) is the best.
But what is better, is observation, knowledge and rationality to improve our world.
Oh, and there is no Easter Bunny, either.
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My wife and I have decided to be honest with our son (4 years old now) about
the child fantasies. We do tell him the stories. We say some people like the
stories so much, they dress up and act the parts; others think the stories so
important they believe they are real.
It feels dishonest to me, otherwise, to try tricking him into believing
something I myself think is patently absurd. Although there is "social
tradition" as a good excuse, it seems teaching them to appreciate the stories
(as stories) is just as useful -- A magic show is just as entertaining and fun,
even when you know everything is just a trick.