Mom? Today I believe in fairies but not Jesus.
Oh? Why can’t you believe in both?
I can only believe in one thing, so I choose fairies.
For her recital in May, Bea’s class danced to the Peter, Paul, and Mary classic, Puff the Magic Dragon. As we prepared for the recital, I borrowed my parents’ CD and we listened to the song over and over in the car. After the twentieth or so listen, Bea started analyzing the lyrics.
Why do they sound sad in this part? she asked, as Paul sang about Jackie Paper growing up and Puff ceasing his fearless roar.
Tears unexpectedly came to my eyes as I explained how, as we grow older and learn more, we tend to forget how to play and believe in magic. Our conversation wound around to Peter Pan and how, for Tinkerbell to live, children needed to clap their hands and say, I do believe in fairies!
The conversation moved on and we continued to listen to Puff over and over. After the recital, our music shifted back to our various nursery rhyme and Whizpops selections. But our conversation must have stayed with Bea.
About a month later, she told me she could only believe in one thing and she chose fairies. I futilely tried to convince her that we are capable of believing in Jesus and also believing in magic – it wasn’t an either/or choice. But no. She wanted fairies.
I was reflecting on our conversation and how, it must be developmentally appropriate to lump the belief in Jesus into the mythical world of dragons and fairies. (And, I suppose my atheist friends would argue that it’s more fact than developmental stage.) It’s a lot to ask a four-year-old to believe in a man who healed people, was killed, and then somehow rose from the dead. It’s a lot to ask adults to believe this.
Last week, Bea told me she wanted to go to Temple with our neighbors, who are Jewish. She wanted to be Jewish, just like Mom-Mom (Franks mom). I texted our neighbor and she immediately invited us to their Shabbat feast and offered to take Bea next time they went to temple.
Bea goes to Sunday school every week, where she explores the Bible using Godly Play. We enrolled her in a Lutheran preschool, where she gets a more old-school version of the Bible stories and songs I knew as a child. We pray and talk about Jesus and faith at home, as it comes up.
And yet, I need to hold her spirituality with open hands. We can expose her to our own beliefs; answer any questions she has (or try to, at least) but at the end of the day, even at four, it’s her choice. Like all we do as parents, the best I can do is model and hope that somewhere along the way, how Frank and I live our lives sticks in her memory as good.
I’m glad that Bea is thinking critically about her beliefs already. I don’t want her to blindly believe something simply because that’s what we tell her. I’m thankful that she has friends who are Jewish and family who believe in fairies and magic.
Perhaps that’s what it means to have faith like a child: To trust, to question, to look at all options and paths equally. And maybe, as adults, that’s an indicator of when we’ve lost our childlike faith – when our faith becomes right or wrong; black or white.
Do you believe in fairies? How does magic fit into your beliefs?