I say stupid things to my kid.
I can't help it.
Some people would frown upon it and say that I am lying, or filling his head with nonsense. Some people would laugh & say I'm igniting his imagination.
Walking through long grass I will often say things such as 'watch out for that crocodile over there'
And we like to go on long walks through Jurassic Park (The woods) looking for dinosaurs whilst I play a youtube video of different dinosaur noises on my mobile phone, safely hidden in my pocket.
Someone on our street just happens to have a camper van with a striking resemblance to the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine. And one day I casually mentioned that Scooby Doo must be staying on our street in order to solve a mystery. Of course, being 4 and completely gullible my son believed every word and commented on the Mystery Machine on our street every day, asking where Scooby Doo was and what he was doing.
So imagine my delight when we visited a fair being held nearby and I saw somebody in a full on Scooby Doo costume. It completely fit in with the tale I'd spun!
My son sat on my shoulders as Scooby Doo pranced about the stage to the theme song, and listened to me gasp that this must be the reason he'd been staying on our street! He was making a special appearance at the fair! Oliver was so excited to see one of his heroes that when Scooby had finished his performance and waltzed off the stage, he ran towards him, desperate to tell him that he had parked his Mystery Machine right outside our house, and he'd been watching it for him.
But then something dreadful happened.
I can still see it now playing in slow motion in my mind, like a sick dream.
Just as Oliver was approaching Scooby Doo, the man behind the mask reached up towards his head. I saw Oliver stop, and look up in bewilderment as Scooby Doo literally ripped his own head off, to reveal a measley, semi shaven, perspiring man underneath, who looked at him and grunted.
He actually grunted.
If I hadn't already seen the world crumble in my 4 year olds eyes (and if they didn't have the police there, doing tours for the kids round their vans) I would have grabbed him round his scraggy little neck and throttled him. I quickly dragged Oliver away and tried to distract him with a donkey that had just trundled past us, but I could still see him straining his neck to try and make some sense out of what had just happened.
The whole way home we didn't speak about Scooby Doo. It was too raw. I couldn't find the right words. We walked down our street and passed the Mystery Machine without a glance.
His Scooby Doo figures lay in the toy box, untouched.
One day we took a walk out to the park, and passed the Mystery Machine.
"I wonder if they ever caught that Villain, Oliver?"
"I'm guessing Scooby Doo is still here because he's trying to catch the man who was pretending to be him at the fair"
"Maybe if we see Scooby we can tell him what the man looked like, to help catch him"
I'm not sure if he believed me. He probably saw my words for exactly what they were. A desperate attempt to win back some of his imagination. To claw back some grains of his innocence and childhood.
It isn't the end of the world when your children realise that some things aren't real. Dinosaurs don't really exist in the woods, Mummy isn't really a Dinosaur Hunter, and kisses don't actually have magical healing powers. But 4 is too young! He still has sleepless Christmas Eves to look forward to, listening for sleigh bells, and wondering how Santa manages to get round the whole world in one night.
Believing in these things is magical. He has the rest of his life to know the truth about the world.
Now is not the time.
Image taken from http://picturesforcoloring.com/2012/03/scooby-doo-coloring-pages/