St. Patrick's Day has gotten out of control. Our little dog got a green-dye bath. Our milk turned green. We had an overabundance of green clothing and hair pretties, and we had corned beef, cabbage, apple beer, green rolls, peas and green jello for dinner. I may have been the source of some or maybe all of this. But the real crazy was in our 6 year-old's personal leprechaun, Alphonso.
Last year, Lil' Mama, posing as a leprechaun, started a correspondence with Little K, who was 5 years old. She exchanged sweet little emerald letters, some gold (chocolate) coins, and just generally had a lot of fun.
Little K was so exuberantly ecstatic; so genuinely, innocently tickled, that it was hard to reign it in. She honestly believed that there were little green people who had picked her--out of all the humans-- to befriend. She was beloved among the magical leprechauns.
This was better than Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth-fairy combined, because it was uniquely hers! Ho, boy.
It set up a challenge for this year, one that Lil' Mama was fully prepared to meet and escalate. Enter Uncle Larry the Leprechaun, his brother Little Ralph, Queen Susan, Gramps, Auntie, and various other relatives and friends.
So when Little K awoke this morning, there was a green cup to use with her colored milk. After school there was another note, and a lucky hat. (Which 4 year-old Little K remembered buying yesterday.)
A small aside:
I've thought a lot about fantasy and make-believe.
I have a friend who HATES Santa. They just point-blank do NOT believe in Santa in their home. That's OK. I respect her a lot, and I get it--she wants it to be about Jesus. I know other people who go whole hog with the fun, and that's OK in my book, also. The kids grow up anyway. I grew up in a home where Santa went out of her way to wrap with different paper, and handwriting, etc.
I'm somewhere in between--maybe out of a strong sense of lazy. I don't hide things, and when a kids is ready to know the truth, they do.
I want our lives to be about the Savior, too. We have a lot of fun with make-believe, and I try to never lie to my kids. Society and the older kids take care of most of the perpetuation. I'm just vague, and I'll ask, "What do YOU think?" (The desire to believe creates a blindness to the facts, as I'll soon illustrate.)
Betty Smith, in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" pretty much sums up my philosophy. As Katie, a new mother, pleads with her mother for wisdom after the birth of her new baby, the subject of magic comes up.
"Oh, and you must not forget the Kris Kringle. The child must believe in him until she reaches the age of six."
"Mother, I know that there are no ghosts or fairies. I would be teaching the child foolish lies."
Mary spoke sharply. "You do not know whether there are not ghosts on earth or angels in heaven."
"I know there is no Santa Claus."
"Yet you must teach the child that these things are so."
"Why? When I, myself, do not believe?"
"Because," explained Mary Rommely simply, "the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination..."
"The child will grow up and find out things for herself. She will know that I lied. She will be disappointed."
"That is what is called learning the truth. It is a good thing to learn the truth one's self. To first believe with all your heart, and then not to believe is good too. It fattens the emotions and makes them to stretch...In teaching your child, do not forget that suffering is good too. It makes a person rich in character." (p. 34-35)
I personally never grew confused at the difference between my Savior and Santa. The more intimate, personal experiences I had with my Father in Heaven and the more I felt my Savior's love, the bigger the gap between real and make-believe became.
OK. Back to the story:
This year I could see a difference in the innocent, pure belief that Little K had shown last year. Some of the magic was waning.
The entire thing turned bad when Lil' Mama left for work, and the correspondence with Alphonso and his kin abruptly ended. Little K was devastated when she left a note in a secret place and the leprechauns didn't take the note.
This caused her to doubt the real, true existence of Little People. I found her on the back deck, sobbing pitifully.
She told her story, and added that, "If leprechauns were true, then there would be one right next to me, patting my leg and making me feel better."
Apparently, in her doubts, my sweet little K had gone in and prayed, wanting God to let her know if Leprechauns were real. She asked Him to send one to her to comfort her if they are true.
I patted her on the leg, and said that maybe Heavenly Father sent me out to help her. I explained the difference between things that are real, and things that are magical and fun. I reminded her that I had told her last year when she asked that they are JUST PRETEND. I asked her if she thought that maybe that was her answer.
I reminded her about real and pretend, and told her that the REAL magic was in her sister, who loved her and delighted in watching her be happy.
I talked about how it's really fun to use our imaginations, and to have fun traditions, and to do fun things for each other. We talked about not ruining the fun by telling other kids about what's real and what's not, and told her the other kids made a lot of things like this fun for her. I tried to help her see that if Lil' Mama came home from soccer to find her crying, that it would ruin her fun. Also, that if she chose to be sad and pouty, she might miss out on the fun stuff that I knew was in store for her.
How could I know what was coming? she asked. I reminded her about who the real magic maker was. I also spilled the beans about how the dog turned green. (Hint: he didn't eat a leprechaun.)
Little K was inconsolable. She was disappointed and sad and bitter (and spoiled.) Her life was ruined, and she would never be happy again.
Then she went to check her secret hiding spot again, and found that the note was gone! ( Liz had found and moved it for her.)
Oh, frabjous day! Callooh, Callay! Leprechauns were REAL! I was WRONG! Hope was restored, the universe was right again.
I gently asked her if maybe she had TWO sisters who loved her and wanted her to be happy. She ignored me and replied that Lil' Mama was still at soccer, so the only logical thing was that a LEPRECHAUN had taken the note. Even when I invoked Liz's name, the facts were tossed and magic embraced. Sigh. I told her that I was happy that she was choosing to be happy again.
The rest of the day was spent in fun fantasy and exciting surprises, as Lil' Mama came home from soccer and stayed home the rest of the night.
Little K was delightful and generous with her joy and treats.
And maybe that was her loving Heavenly Father's answer to her troubled prayer. The spirit of her little prayer was a desire to still believe, and a wish for comfort.
I'm thankful that she turned to Him.
I'm pretty sure that this will be the last year for Alphonso, K's personal leprechaun. This morning she quietly showed me that the leprechaun couldn't have made her hat as he had claimed--there was a barcode in it. I gently reminded her that Little A had been there when we bought it.
She's still hanging on to the fantasy, and I hope she never completely lets go.
But by next year, she'll be a little older and wiser, and a lot less fun.