For those who can read and still believe in Santa Claus, please stop reading now. For the rest, I would really appreciate it if someone could let me know which fictional characters, if any, we are allowed to tell our kids do not exist.
Maybe there is a fine parental line when it comes to this, so I’m just really curious. Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, those are no-brainers to keep mum about, but what about some of the other legendary figures of mythology and folklore?
Over the weekend I nonchalantly told my 6-year-old son that Leprechauns aren’t real. That set off a fire storm I didn’t did not see coming – a firestorm I still don’t quite understand.
After I accidentally let the little green secret out of the bag, my son went running inside to confirm this new startling factoid with his mother. Without second thought, I went back to working in the yard.
Minutes later, an astounded, baffled, and downright angry wife appeared before me.
“How could you say that?” I believe was her emotional cry. “He believes they are real, why would you go and ruin that for him?”
I was just as flabbergasted as she was, but for completely opposite reasons. I could not, to the life of me, understand why it was such a big deal. I was just letting him know what I thought he, and every other kid his age, already knew.
To me, Leprechauns fit into that fairy, sprite, troll, goblin-type category that everyone knows only exist in the movies, comic books, and on TV shows. Some may actually hold important meaning in Irish, Norse, or other folklore, but does that make them any different than say, a Smurf or a hobbit, which we easily and clearly publicly admit are fictional?
Aside from the Tooth Fairy, which over time as transcended to her own level of fairy stature in our society, aren’t the rest just cute, fun cartoon characters, like Tinkerbell?
To give my wife a little leeway, I didn’t realize that my son’s elementary school had just completed a special St. Patrick’s Day project in which the kids made traps to catch these “real-life” Leprechauns. When the kids returned to school the next day there were chocolate gold coins in each of the traps.
So, unbeknownst to me, when my son came home that same day, there was extra incentive for him to try and catch more of these Irish “wee folk.” Thus, when I told him they didn’t exist, he was a wee bit more emotional.
And that leads me back to my original question. I don't want this fairy faux pas to happen again, so wondered if someone could shed some light on the subject.
Obviously we don't want to disappoint our children, so maybe in the end it simply boils down to a case-by-case, character-by-character decision in each household. On the other hand, many fictional characters are nationally and sometimes globally well-known, so to make sure we don't disappoint other children and other parents, maybe there are a few we need to adamantly continue our parental ruses on until they are mature enough to figure it out on their own.
The jolly old man from the North is safely protected. But what about elves, unicorns, genies, mermaids, gnomes, dragons, superheroes, or even more specific characters such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White? And, again, what about Leprechauns?
When it comes to adding realism to this fairy tale, I say we let the luck of the Irish run out. For better or worse, it has in one 6-year-old's household.