My small granddaughter is currently very upset because she is being teased for being the only child in her class who still believes in Father Christmas, and it set me thinking about the fine line in the lives of children between truth and fiction.
Obviously Father Christmas is a myth that we (or some of us) feed to our children; it comes from adults. But the imaginary world of children is far more complex. Most children seem to be born with fertile imaginations ("you be Robin. I'll be Batman"), just as they are born with the ability to pick up languages, and these gifts seem to be lost as time goes by. The small child often lives and plays within his imagination; but how real to him are the cars and dolls he plays with? How much does he really believe in them? One of my sons, in common with many children, had imginary friends; lots of them. They peopled his life, and woe betide anyone who ignored them. If you closed the door before they had time to get in behind him, he was distressed. If you sat on them, he was outraged. Yet how real were they to him? How much genuine substance did they have in his mind, and how far were they from (my) perceived reality? Occasionally he actually was the imaginary friend. I remember the following exchange when he was about three:
Me: 'Come on, Joe. It's time for your rest.'
Joe: I'm not Joe. I'm Bob.' (Bob was one of his favourites).
Me: 'Bob, it's time for your rest.'
Joe (indignant): 'I'm not sleeping Joe's bed!'
(I might add that the grown-up Joe appears to have little imagination, and probably couldn't write a story to save his life).
Which brings me to my point. I really believe that we all are born with imaginations and the ability to tell stories. Good, realistic stories. Some of us continue, while others fall by the wayside. It seems such a terrible shame. At what point is the childish imagination stamped out, and how does it happen? And why?