Aug 13 2010 4:02pm

Spec Fic Parenting: “That’s a Wizard’s Tower”

I have two lovely and wonderful boys, aged two and four. It is my dearest hope that they not only grow up happy, but that they grow up nerds. I am, of course, stacking the deck in my favor.

Witness: I live in an old, historic town on the east coast. We have buildings here that date back to colonial times and are in the shadow of skyscrapers built just a year ago. Naturally, we have an obsession with pirates and ghosts in our historic district, and my sons have noticed this. They point at the old houses and call them ghosts houses and the old churches and call them castles. But, they then point at the skyscraper (The central office of a pharmaceutical company) and ask me what that is.

“That’s a wizard’s tower, son,” I say.

“A wizard?”

“Yup, a wizard who uses his magic to make special pills that can make people better, but that can sometimes hurt them too.”

Their eyes get as large as teacups. “Oh....”

Did I lie? Not really. Sufficiently advanced science and all that: the CEO of the company is a wizard just like I said. So I let him think this, and now, every time we drive past the “tower,” he exclaims “The wizard’s tower, daddy!” He then spins me yarns about how the wizard is angry today and needs to go fight the pirates and the ghosts.

My friends say that one day he is going to hate me for letting him think there was a wizard in that tower, but I don’t think so. I think he will love me for letting him see things as more than what they “just” are. Just to be careful, though, I let him watch plenty of movies with wizards in them.

What stories have you told your kids to spice up the world?

Richard Fife is a writer, blogger, and a disciple of Tesla, the true wizard-scientist. You can read more of his ramblings and some of his short fiction at

james loyd
1. gaijin
When my oldest son was two, he hated getting his hair washed and complained through every moment of the ordeal. So one night I handed him a "shampoo rock" to hold and told him a story:

Once there was a little boy who hated shampoos until he was given a special shampoo rock. He would look at the rock and try to guess where it had come from. Was it a fragment of a castle wall? Was there a fossil inside it? Before he knew it, the shampoo was over and the rock could be put up until next time.

It actually worked.
René Walling
2. cybernetic_nomad
Going to a convention once, the kids were getting rowdy after 5-6 hours in the car, we told them they had made so much noise that the hotel ran away and hid so now they have to be quiet so we can sneak up on it. It worked.

Costco = the store for giants, who else would buy stuff that's on the top of those big shelves?
3. Freelancer
There is so much in this wonderful world which is "magical", I've never found a good reason for making things up.

That said, the streetlamps in our nieghborhood at one place we lived were driven by photo-detectors in their bases, and one on the end of our block was not properly calibrated. Anytime we drove by it at night, the headlights would cause it to turn off. The kids were sure that the lamp was alive, and trying to scare them. It was wiser to explain the remarkable technology of the truth than to have them never wanting to go outside because of the demon-lamps. It took awhile to convince them to come with me after dark to visit the lamp with a camping lantern, but they finally understood that it was just a switch turned on and off by the sun, or any sufficiently powerful source of light.

Rich, I have no reason to think that your kids will be judgemental that you created an interesting "fiction" about the tall building. By the time they're deciding to be judgemental of you, they will think that they have much larger reasons in their own mind. But then, you know the rules, and so do they...
Peter Nein
4. gimpols1908
Well, my boy's little sister recently came home from the 'Baby Store'.
5. Tyabm
Once I told my kids I was going on a business trip to fight dragons. They thought it was cool, and wanted pictures of my fight. I told them dragons breath ruins digital pictures. Way more exciting than installing software in a server room!
6. a-j
Go for it. There's so many out there desperate to drain magic and imagination out of children's lifes so add all you can. It's not lying, it's using fiction to interpret the world in a new and exciting way.
John Massey
7. subwoofer
Let 'er rip.

I think that is why I love the world of Shadowrun. It is a futuristic setting and it asks the question- what if magic came back into the world today? What would it be like living in the modern era with trolls, dragons, elves, dwarfs, orcs etc.

Anything you can do to expand the horizons and scope of a child's mind should be encouraged. They will have a lifetime of "nos" and "impossibles" to crush those limits- give them something to dream about.

Heidi Byrd
8. sweetlilflower
Everytime it thunders really loudly at my house, my son gets scared. I told him God and his Angels were bowling. It seems to have worked.

My mom used to tell us all kinds of cool stories, though. To this day, I can't pass a flowery meadow without looking for some Fair Folk. I look forward to passing those stories on to my child.

I also try to have fun with people's occupations when I fill out their tax returns. I put down "domestic goddess" instead of "housewife". One time I had a pharmacist with a good sense of humor so I wrote in "drug dealer". Don't know if that adds more magic to the world, but it definitely made ME smile :)
9. kmac
no kids but I wish i had grown up with more of those types of stories. To this day my mother's age confuses me, (in my heart, i will always believe she is 24) and that my father was a race car driver on the mean streets of the north suburbs.
i hope to tell my kids things like planes were invented after dragons were kicked off the world by the Wright brothers and the grand canyon was carved out from a battle between ancient water wizards.

keep up the great work though! I doubt any of the great inventions and discoveries of the world would have come along if imaginations had not been nurtured.
10. boquaz
you're not far off the truth.

I'm a scientist, and what I absolutely LOVE about it is that I get to do things all the "boring" people told me were absolutely impossible 20 years ago.
Richard Fife
11. R.Fife
@1 I just tried a similar trick with both of the boys. Actually worked very well. Thanks for the idea.

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