October 28, 2011
By Ekta R. Garg
The question reverberated through my mind as I hunted through the tool box in our storage room.
“Mama, do you think fairies are real?”
Five asked me this question two days ago as we drove to school. We’d talked several times in the last few weeks about what she wanted to be for Halloween. Three is young enough—and carefree enough—that my husband and I had little trouble convincing her to wear Five’s old Halloween costume from last year.
Of course, it helped that the old costume was of Barbie Mariposa, complete with wings in matching pink and purple sparkly glory that protrude above each shoulder. Three may not be as much of a princess as Five, but she still enjoys looking pretty and girly. It’s as though the more sensitive, feminine side of her hides behind the laughing face and sassy sense of humor. And she only lets that sensitive side out when occasions such as these arise.
Five, on the other hand, is old enough to argue the merits of dressing up as one character or another. This year she wants to be Tinkerbell. And when she declared her choice, my husband and I looked at each other for a long minute.
I love celebrating things—birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions that come up all of a sudden. We get so caught up in the daily stresses of life, and remembering these special days helps pull us out of that grind. Celebrations remind us of special days and special moments, and they give us a chance to appreciate one another and do something we don’t normally do.
But some celebrations need a limit. Some parents go out of their way to buy elaborate costumes for their children for Halloween, but let’s be honest. Where do those costumes end up after October 31? They usually manage to line the back of a closet somewhere, collecting dust and waiting for the child to remember them. And more often than not, the child doesn’t.
Call me overly practical, but it doesn’t make sense to me to spend $25 or $30 for something that’ll collect dust in the closet. It just gives me another thing to clean later.
So when Five said she wanted to dress up like Tinkerbell this year, my husband and I shared that long look. In addition to being practical with our money, we also love our kids and are working day and night to raise them right. The result of that gives us two children who usually don’t ask for too much and who know that when we make a decision, that decision stands. And yet we have the same desire as most parents—to fulfill (within reason) our children’s requests.
We discussed it after the kids went to bed and agreed that I should keep an eye out for a Tinkerbell costume.
I found one in Walmart for less than $10. It came in three pieces: inflatable wings, Tink’s main green dress, and a little tulle underskirt to accent the dress. I didn’t tell Five at first that I’d bought it, but when I told my husband he couldn’t resist. They’re good kids, he said when I protested to telling Five about the costume. They should be able to enjoy the thrill of getting something they’ve asked for.
So I told Five about the costume and showed it to her. She squealed in delight, of course, but agreed not to open the packaging until we told her she could. In the last week I’ve shamelessly used the costume as a bargaining tool to make Five behave, do her homework, and to forestall any temper tantrums.
She may be five, but, yes, she does still have the occasional tantrum.
Naturally, as she worked to maintain her composure all week, Five had Tinkerbell and fairies on the brain. Hence the question earlier this week.
“Mama, do you think fairies are real?”
I hesitated. Five has matured quite a bit since starting at her new school here in Salt Lake; the school favors an accelerated curriculum that encourages children to reach beyond the “typical” coursework for their age group. As a result Five has started thinking beyond the logic level of most five-year-olds.
I wanted to be honest, and yet I didn’t want to take away the magic of childhood. There are just some things kids should be allowed to believe in until they hit double digits in their age: Santa, pots of gold at the end of a rainbow, the Tooth Fairy, and any other fairies that apply. Parents who like to dispel the notion of pixie dust, wishes actually coming true from blowing out birthday candles, and the fact that reading a book is “just reading”—parents who knock all of those things should be sent to Parent Jail. At least for the day.
“Well,” I began carefully, “I’ve never seen a fairy.”
“So, that means they’re not real,” Five concluded.
“Not necessarily,” I said. “Just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not real.”
“Really. Have you ever seen a…,” I trailed off. I tried to think of something Five hadn’t actually seen and yet knew to be real. Finally I came up with what is, admittedly, kind of a lame example.
“Have you ever seen a mountain lion?”
“No,” she replied dubiously.
“Well, they’re real. Even if you haven’t seen them, they are.”
“What do they look like?”
Why do I get myself in this kind of situation? I wondered. How am I supposed to know the exact physical attributes of a mountain lion?
“They look sort of like regular lions, but they don’t have huge manes,” I answered, trying to sound confident.
At that point Five’s imagination took over as she tried to picture a lion without its mane, and the conversation eventually veered in a different direction.
And then last night, as Five got ready for dance class, I took out the costume and helped her wear it. All of the dance students were going to wear their costumes to class, and I felt like Five had finally “earned” the right to wear hers. Putting on the dress and the skirt took no time at all, but the wings posed a different problem.
These inflatable wings had the standard valve that parents can use to blow something up and get dizzy and lightheaded in the process. After trying to blow into the valve, I knew I’d have to find another solution to inflate the wings. As I pulled the wings away from my mouth, I felt the sudden urge to sit down fast or else meet the ground at a high speed as I passed out from a lack of oxygen.
I made a deal with Five: go to dance class dressed as Tinkerbell without the wings, I said, and while you’re gone I’ll find a way to inflate the wings. It would be hard to dance with wings anyway, I reasoned, and she immediately saw the truth of this.
So she went with her dad to dance class, and I descended to the bowels of the earth—otherwise known as the storage room in the basement—to look for a solution to inflation. The inflation of the wings, that is.
As I went in the storage room and searched through the tool box, I thought again of Five’s question about fairies being real. In our current day and age, I think it’s become harder for children to hold fast and wide-eyed to the magical elements of life comprised of that most magical component of all—imagination. The world has advanced in technology and offered us so many bright and fantastic opportunities. But it has also dispelled some of the mystique and glamor related to these childhood fantasies. Want to know if fairies are real? Put it in Google, and you’ll get your answer.
I hope, though, to help the kids retain some of that wonder and amazement for the elements of childhood. No matter how technologically advanced the world becomes, some things about childhood should remain magical. And when Five’s face breaks into a smile from ear to ear upon donning her costume—complete with wings inflated (with the help of a hand pump)—I can believe for a minute that the wonder of childhood can, indeed, remain wondrous indeed.