“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
—Through the Looking-Glass
My five-year-olds spent the weekend with their grandparents so that Robert and I could get in some quality couple time before the new baby comes and we descend into complete chaos and madness for a few sleepless, teary weeks.
To our credit, we did housework. And nesting work. We also ate sushi and watched foreign films, though, because that’s what grown-ups do. But when our sweet babes were returned to us by grandparents who had unwisely taken them to the zoo even though animals defecate (which fact five-year-olds are THE BEST at remembering, pointing out, and discussing at length), I was met with a moment of total panic.
My mother handed me a sheet of notepaper with the explanation that it was “Númenor’s presents list”. Apparently he’d demanded that she take dictation for this critical manifesto.
That’s right, folks.
My kid came home from grandma’s house with a Christmas wishlist.
Why is this a problem, you might ask?
Um, because it was December 5th when this happened, and I had already compiled the wishlists and distributed them through the family network weeks prior, not to mention that I had also long finished the shopping I was intending to do. Because we plan ahead in this family, at least when lists are involved. And in my defense, the wishlist I had was based on things I thought Númenor would like. I pay attention to the smalls’ interests and research toys and games and books constantly, and moreover, I asked them explicitly what they wanted for Christmas and they were both totally uninterested in telling me.
To be fair, that was in October. And when you’re only a few years old, the subjective time-dilation is extreme. Númenor probably genuinely couldn’t fathom wanting things for Christmas when I asked him about it with a jaw-dropping 11 weeks to spare.
And he has NEVER made a wishlist before. We don’t do Santa, so we never write letters to Santa, which means my children had to be developmentally capable of picking up this idea from fiction, and even then, they hadn’t previously shown interest in the activity.
But the fact is, he came home with a Christmas list.
And three things on it were alive, one thing was impossible, and two things flew right in the face of our standards for toys. Which left only one item. Which, to be fair, I already knew he wanted and had plans to make. One out of seven, I thought, would likely disappoint him.
Perhaps the worst part of this debacle was not the list itself, in fact, but that I found non-living, non-impossible work-arounds for things and Pinterest projects for cardboard versions of other things until I felt that I had satisfied his list, and only then did I realize that only ONE of my TWO five-year-olds came home with a list.
Which meant I had to ask the other one what he wanted.
And he wanted one impossible thing, one alive thing, one thing he already has (?!?), two things that don’t meet our guidelines, and that same item from the first child’s list that I was already making anyway.
You love them, and you do your best to give them a well-balanced, fulfilling, and overall positive life experience, and they go around asking for impossible things and exotic pets all the time, like that’s any way to behave.
Of course, that’s what children do; it’s their simultaneously inconvenient and inspiring function in society to be the ones tilting at windmills and dreaming the impossible dreams and riding off to brave adventures with their parents as their loving but often flummoxed squires.
And someday, soon enough, they will come to the inevitable end of their quests. Laid low by a reality that did not go away when they stopped believing in it, they will grow up. In twenty years, they may be making business plans instead of drawing a picture of the storage system for their happy rainbow dreams. In ten years, they’ll almost certainly be more concerned with the opinions of friends and external authorities than with quoting imaginary advice from a well-worn teddy bear.
But today, Númenor wants a Star Destroyer and a rectangle tank of deep-sea jellyfish, and Ithilien wants a pet baby talking opossum and a self-driving car that transforms into a self-flying plane. They never doubted for a second that these were things they could ask for and hope to receive.
There is a wild power in not knowing the bounds of reality or accepting the limits of possibility.
Honestly I’m a little jealous.
But mostly, I’m nervous about my ability to fulfill these requests.