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How Do Reindeer Fly?

How To Answer Questions About Make-Believe

"Mommy, how do reindeer fly?" my daughter asked as I kissed her goodnight one Christmas Eve.

I pondered my answer carefully, knowing this was an important question to an inquisitive 3-year-old. "Well ... they run very, very fast and leap into the air," I said in an animated voice.

It was clear that she didn't buy it. "But Mommy, they don't have any wings," she said. "How do they stay up there?"

"Hmm ... good question," I thought to myself. How do they stay up in the air? I struggled, not knowing quite what to say. "They don't need wings, sweetie," I said. "Santa's reindeer are magical."

There, that ought to do it. Whenever in doubt, attribute the unexplainable to magic. I tucked her in and dashed out of the room before she could ask me another question.

It never fails. Every time I think I have the whole parenting thing figured out, something occurs that humbles me. I can't believe I resorted to the old "magical" response. Certainly other parents have better answers than that.

My mom was visiting for the holidays. Surely she would have a much better answer. "Hey, Mom," I said. "How do reindeer fly?"

"Well," she responded. "I used to say Santa's reindeer were magical. That's how I explain the unexplainable."

"I am my mother's daughter," I thought to myself.

Later that night, I thought about the word "magical" and how my mother used it to explain the unexplainable. My mind wandered, and I thought about the magical moments that surround everyday experiences. Sometimes a letter arrives in the mail from a friend who has been out of touch for years. Sometimes I learn an important lesson from someone I thought had nothing valuable to teach. Or sometimes I simply notice the warmth of my daughter as we read together.

Such experiences touch my soul without the wisdom or words to explain why they have occurred. They happen when I need them most, affording me the opportunity to be grateful for things I might otherwise take for granted. They truly feel magical.

After bouncing down the steps the next morning asking, "Did Santa come? Did Santa come?" my daughter stood motionless in the center of the room. Her eyes bounced from the stockings to the tree to the presents and back again.

"Go ahead, sweetie," I said. "You can open the presents Santa brought."

My daughter slowly took a few steps forward then turned around. "Mommy, I can't," she said. "Everything looks so ... so ... magical."

My own mom smiled at me from across the room. "Yes, sweetie," I said as I kissed the top of my daughter's head. "The holidays certainly are magical."

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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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