Chapter III: As good a native as anyone could wish

Our parenting policy in relation to Father Christmas has always been one of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. We don’t tell them about Santa, and we don’t tell them that he’s not real either – we let them pick up stories from people around them, and then support them in coming to their own conclusions. As I put her to bed this evening, my five-year-old said “I think that you will put the stocking in my bedroom, and Father Christmas will put the presents under the tree, because I think mummies and daddies and Father Christmas have to help each other.”

The children in these books believe in their status as explorers in the same way that we believed in Santa Claus. On one level, they know that they are children telling each other stories; but at the same time, they make the stories as coherent and comprehensive as possible, so that they can live fully within them. This hinterland where reality and fantasy mix and merge and run into each other is the place where younger children spend most of their time, and it is wonderful. I spend a lot of my professional life explaining to parents, to teachers, to counsellors and health workers that children’s play is not a way to pass time while we wait for them to tell us the Important Stuff about Reality. Play is their reality, and it behoves us to take it seriously.

There was a steamer, a motor boat, several rowing boats…  “But after all there was no need to notice any of these things if one did not want to, and the Swallow and her crew moved steadily southward over a desolate ocean sailed for the first time by white seamen.”

Happy Christmas, if that is your way.


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