Ask Dr. Freud: the trouble with the tooth fairy

Dear Dr. Freud,

I’ve heard you disapprove of childhood myths like Santa and the Easter Bunny.  Why are you such a wet blanket?

Sincerely,  An Earnest Parent

Dear EP,

Over the course of my long and illustrious career listening to people complain about their parents, one thing I’ve noticed is that children resent being lied to.  You think you’re telling them pretty stories that prolong the innocence and enchantment of childhood, but as an adult, EP, you understand the symbolism of those stories and your children don’t, so what you’re effectively doing is keeping them locked out of a whole set of important, shared knowledge.

When you say to Johnny that his little sister was brought by the stork, his natural curiosity about the deep mysteries of pregnancy and birth is thwarted.  Later, he’ll remember the thwarting, not the cuteness of the fable.

In fact, this is why a lot of people stop going to church.  We don’t understand what’s behind the symbols and myths of religious doctrine, and we begin to resent what feels like obfuscation.  If religious systems can’t share a sense of the overwhelming, awe-inspiring mystery of the creative eternal, they won’t keep us interested past childhood.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a big fan of myths in general, especially Greek ones.  But when myths stop pointing at deeper truths–when they stymie questions rather than lead to more–then we need to set them aside and find better ones.

Wishing you all the best, EP (although you do realize your kids will hate you no matter what, right?),

Dr. Freud

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