Hidden under my 6-year-old daughter’s bed, laying in the center of her room and folded tightly on her bookshelf, I’ve discovered the following letters:
Dear Fairys: Cud you plese give me a majic wond so I can fly? Put wond here. (Arrow drawn to blank spot on page.)
Dear Fairys, I wud like 5 lokits for the fairy club.
PLESE PLESE PLESE can you give me sum thing that can relly make me fly? I promis I will be carfull. Put majic thing rite here.
She’s also drawn them pictures, made cardboard houses for them to rest while journeying on important fairy business (complete with snacks), made boats from sticks and leaves, and even written just to say, “I belev in you.”
And the relationship isn’t one-sided. These imaginary winged creatures have dutifully provided a magic wand and lockets for her fairy-loving friends, in addition to bags of pixie dust (a.k.a. glitter and colored decorating sugar) and written back in swirly handwriting time and time again. Once as I returned from a late night trip to Target with a wooden wand from the dollar bin, my husband shook his head and said, “We are going to have one disappointed little girl someday.”
He is probably right. I have rationalized this is no different from Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, but then again, they only come once a year. I have even told myself it is really good for her writing and reading skills, but so is reading real books and completing worksheets, I’m told.
For a while, with each decorative “g” or “s” I penned, the pangs of misrepresented-fairy-guilt grew stronger. What had I done, and how could I stop it?
Then I attended a parent education seminar put on by my school district. The speaker, Stephanie Tolan, a mom, writer, and gifted-education advocate (www.stephanietolan.com) talked about the need for imagination in our children’s lives. She quoted Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” She referenced a study that found children’s participation in theater—yep, imaginary characters coming to life—was a strong predictor of future success. She made the point that humanity cannot have anything that it can’t first imagine. Corporate mergers have to be imagined…as does world peace (her examples). It got me thinking…organizations that help hurting people…movies, songs, books and spoken words that affect us deeply and spur us to change our lives…they all were first imagined by someone.
I thought back to one of my swirly-lettered responses, in which “the fairies” told her, You can only really fly in your imagination. It now seemed to be a better response than I originally thought.
Will she be disappointed to learn the truth about fairies someday? Yes. But my hope is that the disappointment will be overshadowed by the creativity developed in the process. And when she is armed with the truth, paired with inventiveness, just imagine what else she can do.
(She's past the fairy stage now, and she eventually realized the truth on her own without any tears. Dreams of fairies have been replaced by dreams of owning a cupcake bakery.)