Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com
I’m currently reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as my children’s bedtime story. They love it as much as I did when I was a 13-year old reading it for the first time, even though they are only (almost) 7 and 9. I believe the books are so hugely popular because there’s a part of all children, and of most adults too, that really wants to believe in magic. There’s a part of us that wishes we could make things fly, or speak with animals, or change our appearance with the flick of a wand. Not because we’d do those things all the time, I don’t think we would, but because being able to change our everyday reality offers us a whole new perspective on that reality.
Children grow up in a magical reality. Unless you teach them early on that there is no such thing as magic, they are prone to believe that there’s more to this world than meets the eye. Most children will grow out of this phase on their own around 9-10 years of age. For part of my life, I was very aware of the dangerous implications of this readiness to believe. As an adamant atheist, I raged against the indoctrination of children into cults and extremist religious groups. As a rediscovering spiritual believer, I still recoil at the exploitation of children’s willingness to believe for the wrong reasons, but I also cherish this open attitude and unbiased view of the world for many good reasons.
To be clear, I’m not advocating that we start lying to our children. You can simply let them discover things on their own. When my son asks me ‘Mama, does Santa exist?’, I usually respond with ‘What do YOU think?’ Up ’till now his response has always been that he does, but it won’t be much longer. When he’s ready to hear the story of the saint who helped children, and who’s legacy is now kept alive by all of us through this magical story, I will tell him without hesitation.
When children grow up believing in magic, or believing in fairies, leprechauns or Santa, they keep that part of the mind open that looks for that which has not yet been explained. They remain open to the idea that there might be things that are true and real, but that are not readily perceived with our normal senses. They can imagine having powers that go beyond math and reading. They could turn into quantum physicists who investigate particles that are in two places at once. Or they could become doctors who discover that our emotions have a tangible impact on our digestive system.
And then there are those children who DO perceive a reality that looks different from the one most of us see. Perhaps they can see spirits, hear voices or feel the energy of a room. They might converse with plants or travel outside of their bodies. Many of these children grow up unlearning talents they used to have, because of the reactions from the adults around them. We get scared of them (this is creepy), or scared for them (they’ll be ostracized). Either way, our fear makes it hard to express what they want to express.
Apart from the obvious benefit to believing a child over discounting its experiences, there are other benefits to keeping your mind open to the idea of magic. The thing is, I believe all of us have a very different image in mind than what we currently see when we dream of an ideal world. We’d like to see an end to world hunger, wars, climate change and pollution. We’d like to see people treat one another with kindness and grace. None of us want to see abuse or violence going rampant. We have big ideals.
It takes a bit of magic to be able to keep those ideals alive. Being able to see that things are not the way you’d like them to be, and imagining how they could be different, requires an open mind. Finding solutions to these immense problems requires unconventional thinking, it takes believing in something bigger than yourself, in powers greater than greed and anger.
So yes, let your children believe in magic. And as a result, they might grow up to believe in love over fear. They might learn to see the strength of gratitude and the power of grace. They could decide to grow new talents needed to realize that new world. They can build a dream, even if they’ve never seen what they are building.
And before you know it, they might just make magic happen.