I never read this book as a child. It’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) by C. S. Lewis and number 36 on the BBC book list. I had heard of it. Of course I had. I knew that people raved about C. S. Lewis, but I had never experienced him myself. So after my first semester of college, I went home for Christmas break (the last time I ever did) and found some extra time on my hands. I was not yet a declared English major, but I had always loved reading. So I decided that this break would be a good time for me to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
I read it each night as I lay in my girlhood bedroom. I escaped into the world of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy and their exploration of the large home they were visiting. I’ve always loved house plans, and in my younger days I spent hours creating them and fancied myself a future architect. That obviously did not happen, but hearing about the twists and turns in the house was appealing, even before the children entered Narnia. It was a world of escape. The house to begin with was an escape during World War II, but Narnia led to the ultimate escape for the children.
I wished I could escape the circumstances of my family while I was visiting that winter. College had been so liberating, and I came home to find my mom and step-father fighting with my little sister. They had forbidden her from seeing the boy she liked, a nice boy of no particular religious persuasion. And that was the problem. He was not “one of us.” They had tried grounding her, yelling at her, forbidding her, and controlling her every move. She still saw him. He was her best friend, an extremely intelligent boy, and one who had no bad intentions. But my parents could not see that. It caused a rift, and at the end of that Christmas break, with all of the contention, threats, and fighting (which were typical of my entire childhood), they drove my sister to the airport as they drove me back to college. They sent her to live with my dad, assuming that the distance would sever her ties to the boy.
Well, she married that boy. He is a wonderful man who makes my sister happy. They are good for each other and he is good with my children. I love having them over to visit. We have stimulating discussions on every topic, and I value his insights. I value his humanity. I also value my sister’s choice to choose who she wanted to love and marry.
But the control of that choice was at issue while I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I escaped my reality of an unhappy family into a magical world of children’s games. Yet that fantasy turned out to be just as complicated as real life. The children learned to deal with people and creatures who were different from them. They learned to face evil and overcome it. They had to grow up and become responsible solvers of their own problems. There were no adults to protect them or force them into compliance. They had to think for themselves and make their own choices. Those choices and circumstances were difficult, but they learned and they did it.
It is a lesson in parenting. If we want our children to make good choices, we must let them choose. We must let them learn, even if from our perspective we see those as mistakes. Nobody is perfect, and one of my favorite quotes from a leader of my religion, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, is this: “The heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes but with those who recognized that they were off course and who corrected their ways to get back in the light of gospel truth.” The way that we learn is by experience. Sometimes we learn lessons more vividly if we make a mistake. Sometimes we have to learn through something hard.
I am truly preaching to myself here. My husband and I were discussing our own children and how hard it will be to see them face difficulties and perhaps choose the wrong things as they get older. However, we agreed that we would love them anyway and that we would be there for them no matter what. If we view their decisions as unacceptable, we will not reject them or send them away. We will not threaten to force or attempt to coerce. We will love. We will invest with our time now to ensure that they know we love them. It will be hard. I know teenagers aren’t easy, but I also know that making one’s own choices is what makes that person independent and capable of being an adult.
In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I see an allegory for raising children. They are capable of facing great adversity and learning from their mistakes. We just need to let them, with love.