Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Staring IntoThe Existential Void

Oh, boyhood can be rough.

Recently, Luke and I had the following conversation:
"I can tell you're really upset, if you talk to me maybe I can help."
"Mom, you can't help me unless you can create a real Bakugan dimension."

It wasn't only the Bakugan dimension that he worried about; it was the Pikachu that sits on Ash's shoulder, the owls that fly back and forth to Hogwarts, the wardrobe, now solid, that should lead to Narnia. My heart broke for him; Luke cried and cried as he told me of the death of all of his fantasies.

In these last few months, or weeks, Luke has gotten to that point in his development where a chair is always a chair is always a chair - no matter how much he tries, he can't make that chair be anything else. I remember when he used to have a building basement that he would access through his floor. He would go down in the building basement and he would build, in his imagination, friends and monsters and anything you can think of. When he got a little older, Luke had a watch that became a time traveling watch; it would take him back to the time of the dinosaurs, helping him identify new dinosaurs and be a paleontologist.

But the building basement is now closed, the watch is just a watch.

It must be really hard to know that you're the only one in your head when you go to sleep at night. Especially when you used to be able to go to bed with all your favorite friends surrounding you in your mind.

I remember when it happened to me; we used to go camping, and I would sit on the window well adjacent to the backseat, as my dad traveled at 5 miles an hour in the campground. But I wasn't sitting on a window well; I was sitting on Shadowfax the horse. You know the horse from The Lord Of The Rings? Gandalf's horse. Well, Shadowfax was my horse up until I turned about 12, and then suddenly the window well was just a window well.

Ben and I are thinking about the next step for Luke, and concluding that a rite of passage is in order, some sort of quest that will help him enjoy life and be creative, even now that he understands it's just him knocking around on his own up there in his head. And, just as we were having these concerns and wondering what to do about them, a friend loaned me the most incredible book: Raising A Son, by Don Elium and Jeanne Elium. It's a treasure trove of information just exactly when we needed it.

But I'm wondering if you, dear reader, have any advice for us as well. Do you remember staring into the existential void? Do you have loved ones who have recently gone through this? What did you do to get through it, or help your loved ones through it?

I think maybe I never really gave up Shadowfax. He waited in the back of my head until I got old enough to admit that he was still there.

Come to think of it, that was probably just about when I had children - maybe even just when Luke's building basement opened up.


jugglingpaynes said...

I remember laying (lying?) in bed the night before I turned thirteen, mourning the thought that I would never want to make up stories in my head anymore. Luckily, I realized that it was a day like any other. :o)

Did you ever watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks? One of my favorite songs in that movie was the Age of Not Believing. I think it sums up the feelings we have at that point where we realize that fantasy is just that. But those of us who loved our magical worlds continue to write about them or draw them as a way to visit with them for a little bit longer. That is why we have such wonderful works of fantasy!

And anyway, who says these wonderful places don't exist? "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy." ;o)

Peace and Laughter!

Lise said...

I love your idea of a rite of passage. I look forward to reading more as you figure out what that will be.

I can't remember the moment, exactly. I do remember that I used to pray at night that I'd have magic powers, and testing them, with disappointment, in the morning. Don't recall when I stopped hoping.

topsy-techie said...

What a tragic, beautifully written post. I can't really remember my transition past make-believe, although I think I may have just blocked it out because it was so painful. (or maybe that was when I started watching soap operas to dull the ache...the ULTIMATE make-believe) ;P Our oldest was born 40, and never really had much of a make-believe time. Our youngest is 14 and hasn't lost his yet...he can STILL go out into the backyard and play-act for hours. But I'm with the other commenters...I think a rite of passage is a lovely idea!!!!

Susan said...

What a beautiful post. I remember this so well--the period where I wanted so so badly for all of the fantasy worlds I loved to be real. One thing that helped, sadly, was to get even more jaded. Not only is a chair just a chair, but if you had a dragon--it would just be a dragon! Just like we have become habituated to 3D movies and the internet and airplanes we'd soon be used to magic and dragons and unicorns--come on, the are just horses with horns! Ok...and a funny tail. I also agree that writing fantasy and sharing it--getting others to feel and live in your fantasy world can be healing. I love your idea of a quest or rite of passage. And in not so many years he'll fall in love and discover there is magic in the world after all!

Karen said...

Cristina - Bedknobs and Broomsticks is on our list. And I'm glad you woke up at 13 and still made up stories :-)

Lise - my husband says he remembers doing that, too! And isn't quite sure when he gave it up.

Topsy - isn't it funny, the different personalities they are just born with? Both of mine are very imaginative, but I expect that Owen won't get all existential until he's far older, he just does not have the same kind of introspective nature. But we'll keep notes on Luke's rite of passage, just in case :-)

Susan - One of the things this book discusses is how sexuality is 'latent' for boys about 8-12 years old, they are pretty comfortable with their boy identities, and can be around girls without worrying about cooties or whatever. It'll be interesting, watching him fall in love in a few years :-)

Sparklee said...

Oh, this post just breaks my heart! I wish I had some words of wisdom for you, but I don't know how to help with this transition.

About a week ago, my kids asked me point blank: "Mom, is Santa real?" I didn't know what to say. Finally, stuttered something stupid, like, "He's as real as you believe." Huh? Of course they weren't satisfied with that, but they started discussing it between themselves and I escaped quietly. I know this isn't the end of this conversation, and I feel totally unprepared!

Rana said...

I'm still living in my fantasy world I just brought my twins along with me. I'm writing this as we are watching LOTR. :)

This book sounds like something to put on my reading list. Luke is a bit older than my boy so I'm interested in what others say too.

Firefly Mom said...

I still fantasize regularly (though it's much different. Now I can be snorkeling in Hawaii at a moments notice, whereas I used to spend a lot of my youth on the Millenium Falcon. ;) Cody went through a period when he was a tween where he struggled with having to give up Santa, the Tooth Fairy, etc. He actually announced to us that he wasn't ready to give them up yet, and so he and we still behave as it they're real. (And for years now he's had quite the funny letter writing campaign going with the Tooth Fairy! Someday I'll put all of their letters in a scrapbook. :) He's very imaginative and I hope he can keep that playfulness throughout his life!