Muggles, Beware.

Alright. Before the “Stacey is a Death Eater” rumors get started, let me put this out there. I am not Voldemort, but I am a firm believer that magic is just as important in a child’s life (or in any life, but today I am talking about kids) as faith and science are.

Science (i.e., the laws of physics, gravity, and all that) form the very basis for physical existence on this planet, so, you know… pretty important. Faith, whether it be religious or spiritual faith, faith that your family and friends are there for you unconditionally, or faith in yourself, is likely the most important mental property that any person can possess, because it feeds our inner self, even when we are starving.

But magic gets a bum rap.

Magic is written off as fantasy. Magic is discarded as make-believe, or even lies. And don’t get me wrong… though I talk a good talk, I don’t ACTUALLY believe in wizards and spells and all of that, but I do believe in magic. I believe in the power of the creative soul, and I believe that feeding it with a healthy dose of magic beans once in a while does a person’s metaphysical body good.

So, it’s Christmas time, and I’m reading all of these posts about people telling their kids that there is no magic, that Santa isn’t real, and hey… that’s your prerogative. I’ve heard people say that they don’t want to lie to their kids, or that it takes the true meaning of the holiday and turns it into something commercial, and I get that, sort of. I’m not a religious person, but I’m down with Jesus. He was a good guy, and in the same way that I talk to my kids about the civil rights movement on Martin Luther King Day, I like to tell them all of the reasons why Jesus was a great man, who did good things to help people, and who wanted peace for his people. I would never suggest that we take Jesus out of Christmas, nor would I suggest that we take the pagan tree out of Christmas or the jolly, fat Coka-Cola commercial Santa out of Christmas. People evolve, and so has Christmas.

But, I digress. Christmas, for me, isn’t just about Jesus, and it isn’t just about Santa. In fact, I believe that Santa represents what is best about Jesus. Let’s face it, no kid is ever perfect, year round. But Santa forgives, just like Jesus. They both have pretty fantastic beards, and they both work some awesome magic. Call it a miracle, call it God’s will, call it whatever you want. To a kid, turning water into wine and walking on water is magic.

So I encourage my kids to believe in Santa, not to make them want more stuff, but to make them believe that anything is possible. When I was a kid, growing up, money was tight. But somehow, Santa always made Christmas amazing. The belief that your most absurd dreams can come true isn’t harmful, in my opinion. It just makes us dream bigger. My nine-year-old asked for a mind-reading monkey, this Christmas. Santa will not be bringing it for her, mostly because I am not The Professor from the Powerpuff Girls (and also because I am not interested in any gift that may fling poop).

However, the fact that at nine years old, she still believes that anything can happen makes me more than happy. We lose that, somewhere. We begin to doubt, and doubt is like anti-magic, crushing our dreams into brightly colored sand and changing the way that we see ourselves and the world around us. If I can keep my kids believing in themselves and their insane, crazytown dreams, even for one minute more, then staying up all night wrapping gifts in secret paper, writing notes in false handwriting, and making hoof-prints in the driveway is totally worth it.

Everyone has the right to screw up their kids in their own, personal way. I choose science, and faith, and magic, because a tripod stands up better to the storm gales. They have their whole lives to know “the truth.” For now, I’m going to feed their monkey-laden dreams with boatloads of magic beans.

Giving Books – The Gift that Gives Whole Worlds

So, yesterday, I read this.

And if you clicked the link, you can imagine why this moved me. One book for every 300 children! That is abysmal. That is astounding. That is, perhaps, the single saddest statistic I have heard this holiday season.

We are a bookish family.

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See? And that is just the shelf closest to my desk.

My kids know that they will receive many books for Christmas, and honestly, pretty much any time of year. I have a hard time saying “no” to books. So, when I read those stats to my kids, looking for that coveted moment of realization that they live a privileged life, I was incredibly proud to actually see it. They stared at me, dumbfounded. They were speechless for a moment.

Then my nine year old said, “What do they do when it is bedtime?” and my heart swelled. My five year old said, “That makes me feel sad.” And then, in a moment that parents wait years for, sometimes forever for, my fifteen year old said, “We should donate books, instead of buying each other presents, this year.”

I waited for a dissenting voice. I waited for a riot. But there was nothing but unanimous agreement. My kids just stared at each other, then me, and agreed that rather than drawing names and buying gifts amongst themselves this year, they would donate the money we would usually spend on that, to First Book.

I honestly don’t know if I could be prouder, and thanks to generous matching donations from Random House Children’s Books and Patrick Rothfuss (who is quite honestly one of the greatest fantasy authors of our time. You should check out The Name of the Wind. Seriously.), my kids’ donation will go even further.

So, I am curious. What books are you looking forward to getting, or giving, this holiday season?

For me, I am excited to read Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman and Wonder by R.J. Palacio, which will both be under my tree, but shhhhh… don’t tell the kids.