How NOT to explain Real vs. Imagined

In my last post, I confidently shared that “Real vs. Imagined” was a lesson my children needed to learn (as part of my justification for feeling full love for the rather imagined version of P.T. Barnum’s life works in The Greatest Showman).

Yeah…I should have, I don’t know…researched how to do that a little, because this is what transpired…

A (my 9-yo son): Mom, can we go see the circus – like the real P.T. Barnum?

ME: No hunny, that movie was based on characters who lived a long time ago. And some of those characters weren’t even real people, but made up, imaginary people for the movie. Anyone who was a real person passed away a long time ago.

C (my 6-yo daughter): KC UNDERCOVER IS DEAD!?!?! (hysterical)

ME: No, no hunny. Zendaya – which is her REAL name – is alive and well, but she was pretending to be Anne Wheeler like how we pretend when we play barbies sometimes. KC Undercover isn’t real either.

C: Wait. KC Undercover isn’t real? Like, she’s a robot?!?

ME: No. So…let’s back up here. Everyone in that movie is an actor or actress. They were all pretending to be someone else to film the movie.

A: Oh. So P.T. Barnum isn’t a real person?

ME: No. He was real…but he wasn’t really like the person in the movie. He wasn’t as funny or kind. He did some things that were really wrong.

I went on to explain in kid terms some of his horrors. And, note that I kept using “HE” instead of “P.T. Barnum.”

A: What about Zac Efron? Is he a good person in real life?

ME: (weighs recent stints in rehab and decides will not get into the “even good people can have bad times” speech…and really, really, really wants this conversation to be over) Yes, hunny. I’m sure he’s a great person in real life.

C: What about KC Undercover?

ME: Yes. ZENDAYA, her real name, seems like a lovely person in real life.

KIDS continue to ask me about EVERY SINGLE character in the movie – except, of course, for Hugh Jackman playing P.T. Barnum, and then my son says…

A: If I see that Hugh Jackman in real life, I’m going to go right up and punch him in the face.

ME: Why would you do that?

A: Because he did all those bad things!!!

ME: Noooooooooo…P.T. Barnum did all those bad things (looks in rearview mirror to see very confused 9-yo). Let’s start again…

Sigh. We had similar versions of this conversation every day during the drive to and from school all last week. My kids have stopped asking me about it. I’d like to think it’s because I finally said or did something that helped their little minds wrap around the concept of “Real vs. Imagined,” but it’s more likely that like me, they just gave up.

If I ever get brave enough to start the conversation again…anyone have any tried and true tips before I start implementing Internet advice? It’d be much appreciated!

Much Love, H

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