May 11, 2011

How Old Is Too Old?

Oldest still believes in the Easter Bunny. And the Tooth Fairy. And Santa. When he was younger, he used to believe that everything he read in books was real, too: fairies, leprechans, dragons, talking and thinking robots, talking trains, etc. Which, of course, is perfectly natural.

He doesn't believe everything in books anymore because I've explained that they're just stories. Someone made all those things up and then wrote them down--like I do. He knows I'm a writer and that I make up stories, so he made the connection pretty quickly.

But then there's these other characters that are in every day life, like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. He fervently believes in those, draws pictures for them and writes letters and everything. And I've been contributing to this belief. Of course I have. It's what parents do, because it's fun to have gifts appear from some magical source, and I have fun getting creative about it every year.

But he's almost eight years old now. I know that at least one of his friends figured out the Tooth Fairy, but I'm not sure about Santa or the Easter Bunny. I can't remember how old I was when I found out my mom was behind it all, and I have no clue how it was all revealed. So I can't use this as a gauge for my own kids. I'm a tiny bit worried that my profession as a story teller is working a little too well in perpetuating the belief in these fictional characters, and I have no idea what to do about it.

How old were you when you found out about Santa et al? How old were your kids? Am I being silly to worry about this? :)


Beth said...

You know, I don't have kids, and I have one wild imagination. I'm 26 and still believe in magic or at least the possibility of it. But I don't think 8 is too old to believe in those things. I think I figured things out pretty early, but I wanted to believe those things were real so badly that when the holidays came I would voluntarily suspend my disbelief. I don't think you have anything to worry about. I know lots of eight year olds that believe in those things, and I'm not sure what an appropriate age is to be disillusioned, but I think let him enjoy the magic as long as he can. Just my opinion, though.

khashway said...

I was seven. Some very mean boys in my class broke the news to me, and of course I went running home to ask my mom. She didn't lie to me. I wasn't devastated. I took it pretty well.

As a parent, I'm so glad my daughter believes in these things. She's only 4 so she has plenty time left to believe. I think it's fun to believe in magic. In some ways I still do.

I think we have to let kids discover the reality of things in their own time.

Amy D said...

I was just wondering this same thing (which is why I clicked on you from over at the blueboards!)

My son just turned 9 and still believes. I am not surprised. He is one of those kids that is super book smart but lacks street smarts and sometimes common sense. At Christmas time I was absolutely sure this would be his last one believing, but who knows. With three younger sisters in the house, he may just go with it, and I'm okay with that. I'm pretty sure my 6 year old daughter will be the first to figure it out, and I know it won't be much longer.

These days I am all about preserving their innocence as long as possible. They are growing up too fast! (and now I sound old :-)

Thanks for linking over at Verla's!

Catherine Stine said...

Our boys wrote letters to Santa and put them out with a plate of cookies probably even after they "knew" he was a fairytale. But who cared? It was simply too much fun not to!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

I don't think there's any "right" age to stop believing. When I was a kid, I'd argue with my friends that Santa was real. He'd visited my house one night and my parents were there. I think deep down I knew, but pretending was fun. Isn't that what childhood is all about? Then one day we lose that magic. We never lied to our sons, but they figured it out for themselves.

Mary Witzl said...

I found out when I was eight. My sisters and I were skeptical about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny AND the tooth fairy -- we asked all sorts of questions about how they managed to do the things they did -- but my parents did a good job of persuading us. I knew they weren't lying because they'd told me how wrong it was to lie. Finding out the truth came as a nasty shock to my younger sister and me, but not my older sister, who had figured it all out. I still remember the sense of betrayal I felt when it turned out that the mean kids down the block were right. I had to face them afterwards -- that was especially demeaning.

We made up stories for our kids, but the minute they really questioned them, I backed down. I told them that Santa Claus was in the hearts of truly generous people like the original St. Nicolas. Still, your son is arguably getting something wonderful: a real childhood with all the joys of making believe. Kids nowadays are pushed into premature adulthood and they become cynical all too soon. It's great that your son is still prepared to enjoy fantasies -- that will stand him in good stead.

Tabitha said...

Thanks, everyone, for your replies. I feel tons better about this now. :)

Though, I think I won't be quite so thorough with my answers when he asks me questions... :) Then he can figure it out on his own.