With the recent Easter celebrations I found myself once again confronted with the moral dilemma of where to draw the line between creating a little fairy tale bubble for my kids and - really - lying to them. It is one thing to tell them about the Easter Bunny hopping about in our garden at night hiding chocolate eggs - creating a little fun and excitement and get away with it. But it's a whole different ball game to stand up to an interrogation practise the FBI would be proud of.
How tall exactly is the Easter bunny?
Where does he live?
Where does he get the eggs from?
Does he know Santa?
(that's just the top 4)
... and things become even more dicey when the little mind goes into worry overdrive
Will he get into my window?
Where is he now?
Why is he only coming out when it's dark (the dark is a big worry at the moment...)?
I am not good at making things up, it's probably my German upbringing - never tell a lie (at least not one that can be dismantled within seconds...) and always be on time.
So I go from reluctantly describing the by now intensely annoying creature as really tiny (but how can he carry the eggs if he's so tiny) and friendly (but why is he only coming at night if he's so friendly - well, I don't know, maybe he's shy???) and on quite good terms with Santa as they probably source chocolate from same supplier to eventually breaking down under the continuous stream of unrelenting questions - faced with the pure terror in my 5 year olds voice:
Mama pleeeeeese close the window NOW. I don't want the Easter Bunny to get me!!!!
So I admit it's all one big fat lie!
Immediately I feel terrible for not only having lied to my child (something I vowed to NEVER EVER do), but also for destroying one of the last safe candy floss colored, marshmallow cuddly harbours of childhood by wiping out the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy in one fell swoop.
Leah goes from utter terror to disbelieving astonishment, shrieking:
You mean adults just PRETEND there is an Easter Bunny and it's really them???
hmmm yes (almost inaudible), hoping she is not going to share this particular newsflash with her fellow egg hunters the next day)
Maybe some kids out there are only too happy to buy into the fairy tale world of sled riding bearded men with gift bags the size of a small country and chocolate bearing rabbits - not so my child.
She was born worrying about things. Her over anxious mind caused us to explain to her at the age of 3 (and following the strong advise of her nursery school teachers) that the scary man with the fake beard and strange voice who was going to visit her school the next day would really be her papa pretending to be Santa.
So when all the other kids were shrieking with delight (and some with horror) at the sight of a sweaty, puffing giant in a bright red jump suit ( arms and legs miles too long for the medium sized Santa Costume) Leah happily shouted: Papa Papa - which immediately caused uproar amongst the 3 year olds:
That's Santa sillybilly, it's not your Papa.
Yes it is.
No it is not.....
Soon sides were formed, with the parents either supporting the unbelievers (look at this, it IS Leah's papa) or the conservatives (of course it IS Santa, Leah just thinks it's her dad) the latter sending "how could you " looks in my direction and the former giggling hysterically with our team. There are clearly two irreconcilable sides when it comes to keeping or killing childhood myths - with no middle ground.
We subsequently had to have a postmortem at home, with Alan being more of the old school persuasion to keep all childhood myths alive until they finally leave home (the kids and the myths) and me still too vividly remembering my own terror, when Father Christmas visited our home with a scary helper called "Knecht Ruprecht", who - I think - was created somewhere in German Mythology to keep children scared and obedient. My little brother was weeping with terror, the neighbour's kids just stunned and wide eyed, all of us listening with mounting anxiety to all our sins ceremoniously read off a seemingly endless list by Knecht Ruprecht.
It sort of ended well, as none of us actually got abducted and I (already 6 at the time) realised that Santa was not all knowing as he only read out the sins that my parents knew about - he clearly did not know about the plate that I broke and secretly got rid off or that I had lied about my homework. Also Knecht Ruprecht looked a lot like our neighbour's 20 year old son ....
But I can't say that this is one of my happier childhood memories.
What came out all this for me was to really trust my instincts and be honest with my children, when faced with their questions and worries. As long as they did not ask and just accepted Santa (... ok, when they were babies really) it was fine to create a bit of a story around the occasion.
But as soon as Leah got the vocabulary to ask, it became clear to me that she was not going to simply accept the fact that strange men can enter our homes through chimney's and furry creatures invade our garden at night.
Part of me actually felt relief that I did not have to lie to her - and part of me is still a bit sad that she does not grow up with happy thoughts about a nice old man flying through the air in a sled distributing gifts to all the kids in the world.
The tooth fairy is still alive though - as a recent gift under her pillow really convinced Leah of a higher being and surprisingly she had no line up or sketch artist set up for me the next day to identify the trespassing elf.
Oh and Baby Jesus recently joined the team of accepted yet unexplained super powers: Leah and Kala were watching a dramatic cloud built up in the autumn sky the other day when Leah suddenly piped up: That's Baby Jesus in the clouds and when the cloud bursts we are going to see him.
Kala vigorously nodded her head, none of them aware of me on the stairs overhearing them.
And when it rains - Leah continued her lecture - God is sad, and He is the boss of the world.
I was mystified as to where this particular piece of knowledge had come from and at the same time torn between honest shock and helpless giggles. And just as I was about to embark on a lengthy explanation about cloud formation and rain, a voice from the kitchen chirped: Baby Jesus is not coming yet, but very soon!
Mystery solved: Early religious studies as taught by Nanny Sam.
I bit back my instinct to clarify, which was not easy for me as I am not a church follower (my belief in a higher being is somewhat more universal) and again: Where to draw the line between fact and fiction, faith and myth, spirituality and superstition?
At this particular instant I decided to silently retrace my steps back up the stairs and not interfere as none of this was actually directed at me. But I am more aware now of my children being subjected on a daily basis, be it at school or in the park playing with their friends and nannies, to many tales and myths and religious ideas that I can not control and might not even be aware of.
True to my belief in practising tolerance and acceptance when it comes to people's values and belief systems all I can do is be aware of these different influences and be present and ready to answer questions if and when they come: truthfully.
Based on my own beliefs and values without belittling or ridiculing what other people believe in. And of course I got tested the next day, when Leah on our way home from school told me in the car: Look Mama, the big cloud over there, that's baby Jesus and he'll come out soon.
When I answered that I did not think Baby Jesus was actually hiding in a cloud but that is was just rain waiting to come out, she simply told me that I was wrong and anyway Sam had told her and Baby Jesus was in the cloud, I just did not know.
Yes, I thought to myself, this much is true: I actually do not know.
(will start looking out for fairies again)
I don't believe in miracles - I rely on them
I don't believe in miracles - I rely on them
You found my blog and as I am experimenting with the weird and wonderful world of cyber publishing, let me explain what a gunna is: it's a word for all things desirable, something that makes us happy and warm and comforts us when we feel tired or sad or lonely. a gunna is the best gadget in the world! it was leah s first word for all things she wanted. Or you might also know it as: dummy, schnulli, pacifier binky, schnuller...... and so on. So this is for my beautiful