By: Danny Thomas
I have come to realize that one of the hardest things about being a dad, for me, is that sometimes I have to be Mr. Darling; sometimes I have to throw Nana out of the nursery and ask that my children grow up. And even worse, sometimes I have to ask my children to accept “truths” and “realities” as a function of existing in society. I hate this.
Anyone who knows me well knows that this is counter to my nature, philosophically and practically. I am a knee jerk agnostic; it is my reflex to question anything I “know” to be “true.” One of my father’s biggest sources of pride is having raised a couple of iconoclasts who are not interested in maintaining the status quo. I have the goal, as a father, to honor that tradition and raise children who are, at the very least, mindful of their assumptions.
Growing up, the fictional characters I related to the most were Pooh, Tigger, and The Incredible Hulk. But Peter Pan, for me went beyond a fictional character; he was my myth, my personal icon, a spirit guide if you will. Obviously as I grew, I came to realize that the romantic idealization of youth can be a deadly trap. At the same time I still can’t let go of the notion that there is something of value to letting yourself believe in magic, letting yourself believe in pixie dust and Neverland. Over the years I have maintained and nurtured my connection to Peter Pan’s rascal spirit. It has grown to be an appreciation and reverence to what is unexplainable. It is faith, of a sort. Believing in the fantastic is part of the fabric of my character. I will always clap for Tinkerbell.
So it’s hard giving up the role of Peter Pan, but I can live with occasionally being Captain Hook, because while Captain Hook is a bad guy – he still gets to play, he exists in Neverland, in this world of imagination. So I can almost tell myself I am playing the bad guy, that this “time out” or that confiscated toy is a sporting kind of discipline. What really kills me is when the role of Mr. Darling is required.
Mr. Darling rejects imagination as “poppycock.” Mr. Darling is the end of imagination, the end of play. Mr. Darling says it’s time to “grow up.” He rejects the fantastic…and on top of that he treats Nana like a… dog!
But sometimes, it seems, the games go too far, the pretending gets dangerous, or scary, and sometimes we just need a break from our imagination…
And that’s when it’s my job as a parent to don the Mr. Darling sports coat and top hat and decide what is real, or what the truth is for my kids – that is a terrifying responsibility.
As hard as that is for me to swallow, it is another example of something I’m learning while being a father, but it’s comforting to know I’ve always got a little “something” up my sleeve.