“Mummy, are dragons real?”
Big Brother is five years old. Nearly six. He loves stories of knights and dragons. He wants to be a superhero when he grows up so he can protect people.
“Are they extinct?” he asks.
I don’t know how to answer.
I feel like I’m standing on a tightrope, my position precariously balanced between two core beliefs.
I believe in honesty always.
But I also believe in fairies and dragons and elves.
So I stand, unsure how to cross the gaping chasm between truth and imagination in a way that doesn’t disrespect my son’s question.
I must delve into my own beliefs. I question them; turn them over and over in my mind; put them to the test.
(This is one of the great wonders of parenthood — the way our children push us to examine our own feelings and become better, stronger people.)
I do believe in dragons.
But do I believe dragons are out there, ready to fly forth from their hiding places at any moment and raze our cities to the ground?
It’s fairly unlikely.
Do I believe that was true once-upon-a-time?
Scientists tell us that dragons were never real, but scientists aren’t always right.
As a friend of mine recently blogged, not finding something doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t there. And scientists learn new things every day.
The Brontosaurus never existed. Dinosaurs may not have been cold-blooded reptiles. New living species of plants and animals are discovered every day. Who’s to say what will be discovered in the future?
Maybe we’ll find dragon fossils.
Maybe we’ll find dragons.
But even if we don’t…
I’ll still believe in dragons.
I stand on that precipice while my son watches me expectantly, secure in the knowledge that his mother knows everything. Not yet old enough to understand how much I don’t know.
So I look him in the eye and I say…
Nothing for a second. Instead, I gather my thoughts.
Then I cross that chasm of doubt, the chasm spanning untruth and disbelief. And I do it one slow step at a time.
“No one has claimed they’ve seen a dragon in a very long time,” I say.
“In fact, it’s been so long, most people don’t think dragons were ever really real. Some people think dragons are just stories. Some people think dragons are still alive but they’re very good at hiding. And some people think dragons are extinct.”
My beautiful son looks up at me, and his lips curl into a smile.
“I knew it,” he says. Then he skips off to play.
A minute later, I hear him telling himself a story about dragons and I smile.
Do you believe in dragons?