Healthy Four Year Old Fantasies (by Michael Bobo)
Life through a four year old’s eyes is so much more. More colorful. More emotional. More fantastic. My son has an obsession of late. Not pancakes or superheroes, but George Lucas’ world in the galactic Empire. Most of you know it as Star Wars.
My wife has less hair from pulling and less breath from deep sighing. I have realized my knowledge of the super nerd aka George Lucas’ creation makes me a total dork. And, my son’s world has been turned upside down – in a good way.
I thought it might be a good idea to introduce him to my childhood delight, cracking open a world where spacecraft race from Coruscant where the Jedis meet into the outer rim. My son loves the Jedis – those mysterious warrior-monk figures defending the fragile Republic that is slowly overtaken by evil Sith Lords. I thought Star Wars would detour his constant discussion about Superman, Spiderman and Batman. I’m not so sure that this was a good idea. I long to hear him flying through the house, sporting a cape, envisioning a combat with Lex Luthor. What I get instead is a swift thwack on my groggy head from a home made light saber.
Here’s a peek at our conversation:
“Dada get up let’s play Star Wars.”
Sleepily I reply, “Son give me a minute I’m not yet awake.”
“Dada you can be the Emperor and I’ll be Luke Skywalker. Let’s play when the Emperor shoots lightning from his hands. You know, ‘Take your weapon strike me down.’ Like that Dada.”
As I emerge from bed and commence another round of Jedis versus Sith Lords, I see that this universe is far too real for my son. It’s evidently not just a science fiction film. It’s a lifestyle.
Recently I began to understand I needed to clarify what exactly Star Wars is. My son plays it both at home and at preschool. Maybe he thought the Jedis were like Bible heroes and the Sith Lords were like the Philistines or Canaanites? Uh-oh! I failed to grasp the fine line in a four year old mind between the real world and make believe universes. I gently approached the topic hoping to tread upon this passion lightly. I didn’t want to destroy his enthusiasm, but I needed him to know that this is entirely different than our nightly Bible story reading.
“Son, do you think Star Wars is real?” I inquired not sure where this would go.
Crap! I knew it. “Son it’s just make believe. You know pretending. George Lucas wrote this story, but it’s not all true. He’s just telling a story.”
He sat silently for a moment processing the implications of this conversation.
“Son, do your friends think Star Wars is real?”
As we talked about it further, I saw the loss setting in. Was this the right thing to do? His passion for fantasy made me understand that childhood is largely about fixation upon the spectacular. The four year old mind sees all of God’s creation as fantastical. Star Wars can be real. Superman can be real. It’s all real to him. God is big enough to create all that his beautiful four year old imagination can envision. So I had to ask myself some tough questions. Isn’t God really that big to me, too? Or have I missed something that he understands about God, fantasy and life?
Loss of innocence happens far too early in life. Amidst the ever diminishing childhood that has been commercialized and sexually charged, I wonder if there is another loss that is often overlooked. Granted the commercial and sexual barrage of images on TV and the Internet are major dangers for our children and for childhood. I would never place these two on an equal footing; however, do we squelch fantasy too soon in the name of truth and reality? Has the rigid Christian worldview taken from children the delight of a healthy childhood fantasy?
“Dada do you want to play Star Wars?” my son asked the next day.
Whether it was real or not, his passion did not depart. I was relieved this time hearing this inquiry from his sweet voice. “Sure son I will be the Emperor.”
Once again, I learned a valuable lesson through the eyes of my four year old son. I want to be a little slower to bring “reality” into his fantasies. He has a whole life to experience dreams dashed and to watch fantasies fade. For now he can have his healthy ones over these ever diminishing years of his childhood.
Michael D. Bobo is the Christian Literature Examiner. You can often read him on Burnside Writers Collective. Follow him on Twitter or Like him on Facebook. Read The Bobo Blog for more of his vignettes on fatherhood, faith and life.