As a theatre director, I know the importance of developing imagination and fantasy in the minds of our children. I see teenagers at every rehearsal who are lost in the social tapestries of peer relationships and submission to authority. Those teens who work the hardest to be accepted, appreciated, and admired, are also the one’s who fight the hardest against their own ability to imagine. And without the fuel of imagination, the wonder and play that is required of actors will sputter and die in the presence of an audience.
As an amateur science-based skeptic, I draw the line between reality and imagination because I think humans deserve explanations that are explainable through the scientific method or logical reasoning. I don’t look at my enthusiasm for skepticism as a cynical denial of imagination, but as a way to advocate truth filtered through the scientific process: double-blind controlled studies that are able to be replicated. If a phenomenon or claim can’t be scientifically tested, it must run the gauntlet of logic and reasoning. If it can’t pass the test of logic and reasoning, it falls under the umbrella of speculation or extraordinary claim, which might as well be categorized as imagination until it can be proven.
As a parent, I know that my children deserve a nutritious diet of imagination. My daughter runs around like a princess and a fairy, and I do everything I can to encourage her play. She also deserves to know that fairies are not real if she ever asks. My responsibility as a trusted parent is to be honest, but also to respect her childhood.
If my daughters ever ask me if Santa is real, I will encourage them to answer the question themselves. How could presents from Santa appear under the tree on Christmas morning? When they’re old enough, they will solve the problem themselves. In the meantime, they will enjoy the holidays.
While I do try to stoke the flames of imagination in my children, I also try to foster a curiousity about the natural world. Even at age 3.5, my oldest daughter is learning about atoms and galaxies and everything inbetween. I know that it’s not all sinking in, but even something as simple as gravity blossoms a budding imagination. There will always be a place for dragons and ghosts in her imagination, but I’ll also encourage her to wonder and think about about dinosaurs, ghostly jellyfish, and other real creatures. In so doing, I hope my girls will appreciate the world as it is, not as they wish it to be.