I remember going to bed at night and peeking out from under the covers ever so often, hoping to see the “Sand Man”. I was told that the Sand Man came every night. He had a bucket full of sand and would fasten the eyelids together of all little children with sand, so that they would have a good night’s sleep. It made perfect sense to this little girl, who awoke each morning with a crusty-sand-like mixture in her eyes. I felt this “Sand Man” was extremely aggressive and rude. I tried and tried to stay awake long enough to get a glimpse of him, but he was too elusive!
My mom could talk to lizards. We spent a lot of time outside in those days before computers and video games. Occasionally we would come across a nice green lizard. Mom would make sure we would stop in our tracks and be very quiet and still. She would then, in a very authoritative voice, say “Lizard, Lizard, show me your blanket!” We watched with eager anticipation, and sure enough, that lizard would pump out a great pink blanket from under its belly! We were so amazed! Our mother was just so magical in me and my sister’s eyes!
Of course we heard lots of stories about the tooth fairy, Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. The Tooth Fairy was one of my favorites. She was a little mouse fairy that flew around gathering little children’s teeth to make her mouse furniture. I could picture a cute little mouse with wings, a tutu and wand. But as hard as I tried, I could not imagine why anyone would want furniture made out of teeth! How uncomfortable!
Role playing and imagination were vital to entertainment in those days. My friend next door and I played house with our baby dolls. I had loads of Barbie dolls. These dolls had a camper, vehicle, and even an airplane! Mom showed me how to take an ordinary cardboard box and using crayons, transform it into a Barbie house by drawing pictures on the wall and of course furniture! These hand-made houses were more fun than the already made vehicles. I can remember playing “Ms. America” and answering the all important interview question. We acted out our favorite movies like “Mary Poppins”. Making up games was of no consequence. Our little minds were just brimming with ideas and creativity.
According to mom, loud repeated thunder was God moving furniture. I did not think God had furniture made from teeth. I was sure it was gold and heavy – hence the loud thunder! Mom talked quite a bit about God, Mary, the Saints and angels. We knew our guardian angel was always watching over us. We said our prayers every night, talking to God with Mom. There was not a doubt in my mind that God knew everything I did. If I did anything that I thought would make my parents mad; I was also worried that God was mad. He was a very real part of my life.
I eventually grew up and gave up the games and fantasy. I never gave up my faith in God and my friends in Heaven.
In some way trusting in imagination leads to lessons in having faith. Teaching a child to believe in mouse fairies and lizard blankets may seem childish and unproductive, but it is just the opposite. A child is naturally inclined by innocence to believe. Children look up to their parents and when a parent embraces the world of the unknown and unseen, a child is taught to have faith. They understand that not everything can be seen or touched or fully understood.
At a certain age, I knew there was no Sand Man lurking in the dark corners of my bedroom. I gave up baby dolls and eventually had three real babies of my own. I learned the real meaning of Christmas and Easter which has nothing to do with elves and baskets. I never gave up my faith in God and my friends in Heaven. I never gave up those evening talks with God. Although I cannot see Him, I feel His presence and know that He is watching and guiding me and my family.
When I hear parents or teachers today complaining about a child’s imagination, I get sad. The secular world wants to do away with imagination and fantasy play. The secular world wants children to believe only in what can be seen and proved. The secular world does not want to hear about babies in the womb having a soul or that people with disabilities are vital and have purpose. The secular world does not want to hear about God or Jesus or Mary or Angels or Hell or anything of the spiritual realm. It has an agenda that robs children of innocence and a proper childhood.
So, this summer, sit with your kids and watch Mary Poppins then act out your favorite scenes. Take a walk outside and make your child giggle when you make a lizard show his blanket. Look for fireflies and call them “lost fairies” looking for their home. Then put your little one to bed and say a goodnight prayer to God together.
But you can leave out the Sand Man. He is too creepy!