“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”
-Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland
Parenting has these moments. Teaching has them too.
Our school musical this year was Wonderland!, a spin-off of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland. As a child, I wouldn’t have noticed the dimension of the story that became evident the other night, when Alice stepped through the Looking Glass and everything turned backwards. To a child, this story is a feat of imagination, a delightful trek into a world that doesn’t exist.
As a parent and educator, it connected with something a little less fictional. It reminded me of the times where my children have come home and bemoaned things that didn’t make sense. It reminded me of times when students complain of an egregious injustice at recess, only to learn that what really happened was a little more complex and nuanced. And it reminded me of some discussions with concerned parents, who recounted what their child told them, and I had the opportunity to share some other relevant details that brought sense to a story in need.
Children aren’t cognitively and emotionally ready to fully understand their world. The perspectives and messages of others, body language, context and the implications of their own actions are often overlooked, not out of dishonesty but out of ordinary immaturity. Even adults struggle with this, and we are all vulnerable to using our imaginations, however unwittingly, to help explain a situation in a way that may please us, but is not a representation of all that really happened.
If your child comes home with a story that leaves you feeling as if you’ve gone through the Looking Glass, take heart. You needn’t go through the many adventures of Alice. Reach out to the adults who can add the facts needed to turn this backward world into one that makes sense. Doing so offers a delight that is preferable to the temporary treat of imagination. Even Alice came to realize it. “It was much pleasanter at home, when one wasn’t always growing larger or smaller.”
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.
This article was first published in SNAP Etobicoke, April 2013.