There’s a sweet spot in adolescence when children take great pride in new responsibility and unraveling life’s bigger puzzles, at the same time expressing pure delight believing the fantastic notions we’ve created especially for their pleasure. Like Santa Claus. Teleportation. Invisibility cloaks. Magic.
A few years ago I wrote a Motherhood Manifesto—a set of beliefs that guide my parenting. It hangs above our breakfast nook, as a daily reminder of my core values. At the top of the list lies “Believe in Magic.” All too often I hear stories of parents (and even some children) who have found it necessary to dispel an individual’s belief in such far-fetched ideas.
Quelle horreur! Isn’t magic the entire point of childhood? Without our imagination and faith in wild ideas, we cannot achieve greatness. Or even goodness. At least, we cannot become our best selves. To aspire, dream and achieve takes courage, optimism and belief.
Cultivating a belief in magic conditions us for a life of risk taking and resilience. We suspend reality, stretch our minds, and leap…and we are often rewarded for these actions. An eager child on Christmas morning is sweetly treated for their patience and fervent belief that Santa is indeed, real. For if they did not believe, old Saint Nick might just skip that stocking. Should the day come when our doubts outweigh our beliefs, we mourn and move on to another beautiful mystery.
Believing in magic is the ultimate exercise in optimism. My boys keep invention journals—sketch books filled with diagrams of imagined creations. Whimsical and practical, extraordinary yet ridiculous, they are unlimited by the boundaries of space, time and physics. Exactly. Where will the next great idea emerge, if not from the wide-open mind of a believer?
To consider the real possibility of teleporting or using the Jedi force inspires us to keep going, even when our own ideas fail. It may not be “proven” in daily practice (like our trusted Tooth Fairy), but if we all approached life with a WYSIWYG construct, we’d have no Apollo 11, no Picasso, no iPhone, no Harry Potter. No imagination and no innovation.