I said something to my son, Jude, the other day that I thought was somewhat profound; perhaps, the best advice I’ve given to him in my measly seven plus years of being a parent.
Some while ago we’d had a talk about learning. In addition to being a writer and martial artist, I’m a teacher so the value of learning and knowing what to do with what you learn is extra important. I’ve had talks about this with my son, espousing the value of knowledge and even using the old “knowledge is power” line. He seemed to get it.
Every Sunday, before his swimming lesson, we have some father-and-son time over breakfast at McDonald’s. We’ve been doing this for almost two years and each week we see a group of older gentleman sitting together. They’re variably dressed. One is usually wearing sweatpants – the kind with the elastic at the hems – and a t-shirt or sweatshirt if it’s cold. A couple others are dressed in slacks and a polo shirt. Another might be in khakis and loafers and a button down. Invariably, we hear them talking about the Sunday mass they all came from and about some of their exploits in the military. The sweatpants wearing veteran is usually sporting a baseball hat and, more often than not, the logo or insignia on it has something to do with the US Navy.
Last Christmastime, as he and his cronies were leaving, he asked Jude what colour he likes. Jude said he liked red. The man went to his car and returned with a red plush Angry Birds doll. On a future occasion, he gave Jude a yellow. Last week, he gave us baseball hats – one red, one white, one blue – each with ‘USA’ stitched on the front. A couple of weeks before that – bear in mind that while we see them every week, these gentlemen sit on the other side of the restaurant – when they were leaving, the Angry Birds gifter passed Jude and said, “Bye, Jude.” To that, Jude turned to me and said, “How’d he know my name?” Then we both smiled and said, simultaneously, “I think he really is Santa Claus.” This is something Jude has suggested about the man since receiving the Angry Birds plush dolls. The man did tell me last week, when Jude was getting a napkin, that he has a friend who makes hats, dolls and such and that he asks our Santa Claus to help distribute them. This makes perfect sense but, hey, who’s to say? Maybe this is merely Santa’s cover. Hmm.
Anyway, back to last week. After giving us the hats and walking out, Jude stared at the man and said, “Daddy, let’s ask if he is Santa Claus.” I smiled and said that we shouldn’t. The man was already getting into his car and I didn’t want us to chase after him. Moreover, I said, “Do you believe he’s Santa Claus? We don’t need to know. If we find out, it might change stuff.”
Jude thought about what I said and took a swig from his chocolate milk before turning back to me and bringing up the whole ‘knowledge is power’ thing and asking what “stuff” knowing if he’s Santa Claus might change. I nodded and told him that this was a different kind of situation; a situation when knowing might not be power. He asked why and I said, “Because, while knowledge is power, it can also take the magic away.”
Now, whether you believe in Santa Claus or not, as a real person or as a concept, that’s up to you and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve had some interesting things happen to me that make me believe in aliens – and if that’s shutting you off and you’re leaving my blog, bye and thanks for visiting. What I meant with my answer to my son wasn’t so much about literal magic or whether there is or isn’t a Santa Claus. What I was referring to is something that’s unavoidable but also something that can be slowed and that is the innocence and emotional magic of the newness of something you love.
My son is seven and he likes many things. Among those things is martial arts and, in particular, Taekwondo. He’s been training in it for about two and a half years. I’ve been involved with Taekwondo for almost thirty years and because of that difference we experience Taekwondo in ways that our specific to each of us. His is from the perspective of something that is simply cool. I still get that but I also come to it with the wisdom of someone who has seen the ins and outs, the good and bad, the pure training and the politics, the humility with being a white belt, the awe at getting my black belt, and the struggle to maintain a white belt mind and heart after gaining ‘master’ rank.
So, while I know my son will get older and begin to see things differently – whether it’s Taekwondo, school, work, a relationship, a favourite vacation spot, what have you – I hope that he’s able to see the magic in all he does for a long time before he becomes too knowledgeable; before he becomes too wise. Once the magic of the thing’s innocence is lost it is difficult, if even possible, to get back. And, when that happens, one can get jaded. Sometimes a person needs to view things from all angles, from inside and out. Sometimes, however, he needs to view things as simply as he can and take things as they are and not worry about what might it all mean. Knowledge is great when it’s needed. So is the magic and, more often than not, the magic’s greater still.