On a trip to the Magic Kingdom when I was thirteen, we had a behind-the-scenes tour (almost as if we were royalty). The thing they told us that stood out the most to me was that there were never to be two Mickeys out around the park at the same time. Now, while they hire at least ten Mickeys to rotate, they also have a complex system designed to make sure little kids don’t know there is more than one Mouse. And it made me think about all the other things we keep kids in the dark about and why.
First, of course, there are the characters (like Mickey himself), the biggest of whom is jolly old St. Nick, aka Kris Kringle, alias Santa Claus. Shhh. Kids might be reading. I’ve always thought it’s crazy for parents to push this big red-suited guy on their children, but why do they do it? (Don’t you love how I exclude myself from other parents, even though I too use Santa Claus for my own ends?) They do it because it is convenient when kids are young. Naughty or nice, get on one of the lists, and KEEP YOUR KIDS IN LINE. That’s really what it’s about. If it takes a jolly stranger to get it done, parents will utilize the deception.
The next character on the list is the Tooth Fairy (no, not as characterized by The Rock in that lame movie). This is the person we use in order to teach our children how to earn money. All they have to do is lose teeth. Score! That’s so easy when they’re little and teeth are falling out all over the place, but it would really serve them well when they’re seniors and it happens all over again. What I love about the Tooth Fairy is her lack of a naughty and nice list. The only criteria she has is a tooth under a pillow. And I’m sure if you can’t afford a pillow, she would take it from under the nearest rock too. So convenient. And the list goes on.
“Your dad just went to the store for a couple things… three months ago. I’m sure he’ll be back.”
“Fluffy and Bear Bear got old, so they went to live on the Johnsons’ farm.”
“You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.”
Wait. Hold up a second. We can really be whatever we want to be when we grow up, right? So, parents tell their kids these things to keep them in line, to hide the cruel truths of the world from them, or to explain things that they either can’t explain, or would be too much for their kids to take. It works in reverse too. There is no boogieman under your bed. No boogieman could possibly fit in your closet. The boogieman left for Florida last week and he’s never coming back.
The amazing thing is that kids believe us when we tell them these things, no matter how farfetched they are. Their utter innocence is amazing in a world that seeks to destroy that innocence from an early age. They aren’t like us in that their worldview is still being shaped, so let’s shape it for the good. And if that means Fluffy and Bear Bear are at the Johnsons’ farm, so be it. Who does it hurt?
Oh, and I challenge you to find two Mickeys at the same time anywhere in the Magic Kingdom. Come on. I know you can do it.