Steven Spielberg. A magical creature. He is a jolly old man with a beard who exists to provide joy and entertainment throughout the world. We all love Steven Spielberg.
But when is it time to tell your kids Steven Spielberg isn’t real? The age depends on the individual child, but eventually you’re going to have to tell them.
When you’re a kid, believing to Steven Spielberg is wonderful. Kids naturally feel small, but Steven Spielberg makes them feel like they are actually big. He makes them feel like they can be smarter than adults. Like they can overcome adversity. He makes them want to go outside and make movies with their friends. Like there are allies among the stars. Like not everything out there is trying to hurt them, and that even if it is, it can be beaten by cleverness and creativity and love. Could you imagine if someone walked into your office thinking like that? You’d think they were at worst insane or, at best, never grew up. How would they learn that they are usually wrong? That they’re not good enough? Or that the bad guys usually win? Their heads would be stuck in the clouds. They would be much too happy to be adults.
I remember when I first found out Steven Spielberg wasn’t real. I was eleven. I walked in on my parents watching the news and I asked them “Mom, Dad, how can Steven Spielberg exist in a world where stuff like this is happening?” They looked at each other, then looked at me, and told me it’s time we had a talk.
If your kids grow up still believing in the magic of Steven Spielberg, they’ll be made fun of. They won’t be able to make it in the real world if they still think friendship can come in all places. And that if they dream big enough amazing things can happen. Believing in Steven Spielberg is perfectly acceptable for small children, but eventually they’ll have to learn how to judge people. How to hold grudges and make assumptions. How to hate. How to be angry.
Kids believe in Steven Spielberg because it gives them hope. And, in order to become an adult, that hope is the first thing that has to go.
When telling your kids, there are two basic strategies. Either be upfront with them or encourage them to question the logic. How could one person have the time to make 56 films of varying topics and genres and remain so delightful for so long? Does he have the ability to stop time? When they sit down and question it, they’ll realize it doesn’t make sense. And how can reindeer fly? That question doesn’t have to do with Steven Spielberg, but throw it in just to get them thinking.
Steven Spielberg is a myth we tell our children so they can have some magic in their adolescence. But, for the sake of your kids, you’re going to have to put an end to that magic. I wish Steven Spielberg was real. Right now, we would need him more than ever. But, at some point, you’re going to have to let your kids become cynical assholes like us.