My oldest daughter and I saw a rainbow recently. It was a very magical event for her, until I screwed it up. She asked me if we could walk to the end of the rainbow and I gave her a detailed explanation of what a rainbow really is. She looked at me and said, “You mean it’s not real? I can never go to the end or feel the colors?”
It was in that moment that I realized that I had stomped on my daughter’s imagination. Does it really hurt anything to believe in the magic of a rainbow at 7-years of age?
It’s funny how we work hard at keeping the ideas of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy alive in our children for as long as possible, yet every day we have opportunities to let the magic of childhood live within our children that we squash with our reality.
Children ask hundreds of questions. Do they need to know the detailed realities for them all? Isn’t fostering a child’s imagination one of the most important aspects of childhood? If they are not allowed the time to be creative and imaginative in their play, won’t they miss out on important developmental skills, like problem solving, and the evolution of new, creative hypotheses for the future? Research of any kind begins with a question and takes immense creative thought to find potential solutions. The growth and advancement of our world relies on this. What are we doing to our future leaders if we take away this precious time of imaginative and creative development by filling it with the hard facts of today’s world?
My intention in telling my daughter what a rainbow really is was good, but she wasn’t ready to hear the science behind a rainbow. What I should have done was ask her what she thinks we would find at the end of the rainbow once we arrived? This would have challenged her to be creative in her thought, verbally expressive in the description of her imaginative ideas, and allow me see the world through my daughter’s eyes.
Will my daughters’ always believe in fairies, elves, unicorns, and dragons? Of course not. The world will make certain of that. The skills they are building by living in their magical worlds, however, are irreplaceable. As a parent, I want to be cautious as I provide answers to my children’s questions. What is it they are truly asking and what kind of answer are they are ready for? Sometimes, it’s okay to put a little twinkle in their stars. After all, I still pick up a penny for good luck or make a wish upon the first star that I see at night. You never do know…