Published originally in The Catholic Weekly.
Our six-year-old has provided us with some of those delightful moments recently that children can provide, which, though simple, are totally unexpected and immediately memorable.
Firstly, he became suddenly and completely interested in reading everything in sight, from cereal boxes to street signs, and slogans on clothing.
We were woken very early one Saturday morning by the sound of him reading loudly to himself in the kitchen. He hadn’t even stopped to turn on the light, but sat on the floor in the dim light coming through the blinds, labourously sounding out the longer words of a book I’d given him the day before.
This is the boy who always stays under his quilt later than the rest of us. “Joachim, what are you doing out here in the dark so early?” I asked him. “Reading my book,” he answered. “I didn’t want to wake up Jacob.”
Then there was the book fair we stopped at after Mass last Sunday. He saw a children’s book on Jedi warriors and had to have it, even though he’d never seen any Star Wars movies before. He spent the rest of the day reading that book. He wouldn’t tell his curious siblings what was in it. He hid it when he had to come in for dinner and bed, and slept with it under his pillow.
He put it in his school bag every day in order to keep it under close surveillance and when I asked on the drive in one day if he’d told one of his friends what it was about, he said, “No, I proved it. I made a stick on the ground move!”
“Wow,” I answered. “What did she say then?”
“She didn’t see it, she wasn’t looking then.”
“Well, that’s amazing.”
“I know. I can’t move big things like houses and cars, just sticks and small things with my mind until I do more Jedi training.”
“I thought you were a ninja,” Hannah asked him.
“I’m half ninja, half Jedi,” he answered soberly.
When I relayed this conversation to his godmother, her tongue-in-cheek response was that she’d been praying for at least one of her godsons to become a priest and perhaps this indicated it wouldn’t be our son. I countered that a priest with a few ninja and Jedi warrior skills up his sleeve could be pretty cool.
I’d be delighted if it were a book about an heroic saint he’d been excited about, or Michael the Archangel. We have those books, but at the moment at our house it’s all about Star Wars and the Force, and while we know it’s not a Christian concept we’re giving his imagination fairly free reign.
He was back to being a ninja the other night, creeping up and spying on me from around the doorway of our home office and then slinking off again. I called him to come and sit on my lap for a while.
He came and started chatting but he kept wriggling. “What’s the matter?” I asked. His legs and arms were sticking out and he kept sliding off my lap.
My first-born son has outgrown my lap.
I don’t know what his future holds, or even what his next passion will be. I don’t know if any of our sons will be drawn to the priesthood. I can’t know exactly what impact the things we allow him to get enthused about will have on the kind of future husbands, fathers, priests, or single men our boys will be. It’s such a privilege to be able to watch a life unfold like this. It’s exciting and a bit scary too, because while we have a huge influence, we can’t control the outcomes.
I only know from my experience how kind God is, and how willing to use very unorthodox materials. And I pray that God will use everything in Joachim’s life to bring to fullness the promise of his baptism, including his new-found love of reading and, who knows, maybe even the Force.
Ah, I love this kid! Have you been particularly tickled by something a little one has done lately?