Enchanting Children by David Mills


Enchanting Children

Training Up a Child Requires a Well-Formed Imagination

Some friends who live in a small house once found that half an hour or so into a party, everyone who had been scattered through the four downstairs rooms was jammed together in the living room. They could never figure out why, until the husband noticed that their Corgi, one of the sort bred to herd cattle by nipping at their heels, was gently herding everyone into the room by nudging the back of their legs.

The dog, he said, put on an extraordinary performance making people go (a) where they did not want to go, and (b) without their realizing it. This is how, I think, our culture forms our imaginations, and why children, who do not have the gifts to recognize the culture’s compelling Corgis, are so peculiarly vulnerable.

A Relentless World

We know, for example, that our cultural and media elite are aggressively pro-abortion. We recognize the culture of death in the National Organization for Women and New York Times editorials. It is easy to explain to our children that these people want babies to be killed when their mother chooses, and that this is wrong.

But our culture’s assumption against life—its anti-life imagination—runs much deeper than its ideological and political expressions and is much harder to see. The world propagates its imagination in ways so small we don’t even notice them, but so steadily and so relentlessly that it pushes us into agreement without our even noticing we are being moved.

Look at movie and television families. They always have only one or two children, or at most three, unless the family comes from the backwoods and is shown to be laughed at. The possibility of having another child is almost always a time of pain and struggle, even for married couples, inevitably so if the child is “unplanned.” The talented woman always regrets (at least sometimes) the life she gave up to care for her child. Daycare and public schooling are the parents’ default choices.

Sexual activity is completely disconnected from the creation of new life. Sex is a need and a right, but children a choice, and one that must remain unrestricted, even by conception.

The good life shown in commercials, articles in the travel section of the newspaper, in the lifestyle magazines, is always a life unrestrained by small children, indeed a life impossible with more than one or two children. The basic needs of children are so elaborated that children become effectively a life-style option for the affluent.

Families are, with a few exceptions, dysfunctional, and the families that function well are usually collections of affectionate individuals without established (and certainly not hierarchical) places in the family. Families are rarely religious and if they are, they are certainly dysfunctional.

Christianity teaches that love is necessarily fruitful, and that the act of sexual union within marriage is given us not only for emotional intimacy but for the creation of new souls. The union of bodies should produce bodies.

David Mills has been editor of Touchstone and executive editor of First Things.

• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!

personal subscriptions

Purchase Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!

RENEW your print/online

Online Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

RENEW your online subscription

gift subscriptions

GIVE Print &
Online Subscription

Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!

RENEW your gift subscription

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

kindle subscription

OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)

Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.

more on imagination from the online archives

18.4—May 2005

Of Weeds & Fairy Tales

The Idylls, Idols & Devils That Corrupt the Moral Imagination by Vigen Guroian

11.5—September/October 1998

Speaking the Truths Only the Imagination May Grasp

An Essay on Myth & 'Real Life' by Stratford Caldecott

10.4—Fall 1997

Lessons from the Nursery

The Catholic Imagination Encounters Bambi by James L. Sauer

more from the online archives

14.6—July/August 2001

What Women Need

Three Bad Ideas for Women & What to Do About Them by Frederica Mathewes-Green

22.6—July/August 2009

Unhappy Fault

on the Integration of Anger into the Virtuous Life by Leon J. Podles

28.3—May/June 2015

Of Bicycles, Sex, & Natural Law

Describing Human Ends & Our Limitations Is Neither Futile Nor Unloving by R. V. Young

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone