He built a trap, his second within two years, and he planned an elaborate design to lure a leprechaun with candy, fake coins, and shiny objects. The grandson planned the capture for days, and he dashed to the trap each morning. At first, his parents played along. Later, when he told them the idea of catching a leprechaun was causing his heart to hurt, they knew it was time to tell him it didn’t exist.
He cried and ran to his bedroom. His parents were later relieved when he seemed to be over the disappointment.
The child’s obsession had roots. For several years he had observed the elf-on-a-shelf tradition during Christmastime – one in which an elf doll moved about the house in the days leading up to Christmas. Also, for several years his schoolteachers had sprinkled magic glitter throughout his classrooms on St. Patrick’s Day and had created little messes that a leprechaun had supposedly made.
Of course, every child eventually learns the truth about the fantastical characters, such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth fairy; and many of us adults have stories about how we handled these discoveries. Even today, my grown children tease me, some 25 years later, about how I broke the truth to them about Santa, the big kahuna of childhood fantasy. In fact, they once made a video as a Christmas present to me that portrayed the damage I had done to their hearts.
The best I remember about the incident is as follows: When the oldest child was about 11, and the other two were nine and eight, I figured they had heard enough doubts at school to know the truth about Santa. Therefore, one day while I was driving and they were in the backseat, they began arguing about the matter. I must have been stressed out about something because I remember stopping the car, turning around and saying, “For goodness sakes, kids, y’all know there is no real Santa, so hush.” There was dead silence in the car, and all of their little eyes grew wide.
It was not my best parenting moment; however, the time was right for the children to know the truth. The two younger children claim, of course, that my outburst was their first definite knowledge that Santa was not real. Oh, well.
The children grew up pretty sane, in spite of me, and married. Soon after the third marriage in the family, they made me the video. In fact, two of their spouses took part in it – one played me and another videotaped their skit. (I have always remembered this fact.)
Nowadays, my children are raising their own young ones and are worrying about things like, “What and when should we tell the kids?” I notice none of them are asking me this questions.
We parents and teachers must take a balanced (and unstressed) view about how to teach children to distinguish imagination from reality, truth from lies, and tradition from practicality.
So, parents and teachers, as St. Patrick’s Day and the other holidays roll around this year, you all should think about these matters. If you do not, you may find yourself featured in a film about a character as mean as the big bad wolf.
Email Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org