Miss Petra on Father Christmas

Petra came home this afternoon and told me that she had been discussing Christmas with Travis. “I think it’s all made up,” she told me. She’s thinking that the flying sleigh and the red-nosed reindeer and the fat man with a beard who comes down chimneys are all very unlikely. Her theory is that it’s someone much more ordinary who just comes in the front door, eats the goodies you’ve left out, and puts presents under the tree. I asked her who she thought the ordinary person might be and she didn’t have an answer.

So she’s arrived at a sort of halfway point where she’s thought, “hey, wait a minute, that doesn’t work,” but she’s still thinking that some external, non-magical, person brings the gifts. And that marks a real shift in her way of thinking. For small children there’s no real distinction between reality and fantasy. Petra used to tell me complicated stories that began with commonplace details of her day at kindy and segued into wild flights of fancy about flying buses and parades and Father Christmas coming to visit. But now, she’s bigger and her reasoning powers and her grasp of what’s going on around her are much more acute.

It’s fascinating to see the changes.

And this change is obviously a big one. Petra’s current behaviour reminds me of something that happened when she was a tiny baby. She suddenly stopped sleeping, was really wired and obviously over-stimulated, and crabby as hell. I found out later that babies start seeing more colours at that time, so she was experiencing the world in a whole new way. I’m pretty sure that she’s doing something similar now and that if I went off and researched child development, I’d find that big shifts in intellectual and emotional capacity happen between six and seven.

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