When the magic of reality collides with the magic of childhood
Yesterday we put up the Christmas tree in our house. That seemed like a good time to play a little game, exploring our seven-year-old son’s thoughts on theological matters.
I asked him, “What do you think about Mithras, the god of the sun chariot, that some people worship on the 25th December?” Instantly he retorts, “Rubbish! The sun’s not a god, it’s a great big fireball!”
“So what about the great god Shiva with six pairs of arms?”
“Oh don’t be silly, daddy, nothing has six pairs of arms, unless it’s an octopus with two missing!”
So far, so good, I thought. Let’s push it a bit. “And how about Jesus, who came from heaven to save mankind?”
“Oh, that’s silly as well, it’s all made up.”
Hmm. Clearly his school is doing something right.
Then the big one: “And how about Father Christmas, is he made up too?”
“No!” came the indignant and emphatic response, “Father Christmas is real!”
“Really?” I said, “Why do you think Father Christmas is real when all the others are just stories?”
“Because of the evidence,” came his disarming reply.
“Don’t you remember last year, we saw his boot marks in ash all over the sitting room floor?” His brow was furrowed and his hands were waving didactically. “Two chairs and a table were on their sides, the glass of sherry was half-drunk and tipped over in the fireplace, a carrot was half-eaten by Rudolph - I remember his tooth marks - and there was a terrible mess, but he did leave me presents.
“And there were labels and barcodes and things on the presents saying they had come from the North Pole, so he must be real.
“And I remember you seemed quite cross with Father Christmas for making all that mess in the house, and mummy said he was very silly and fat and clumsy and must have been drunk, and he should be ashamed of himself making all that mess, and she was angry and made you clean it all up, but you thought it was funny.”
We’ve just finished reading The Magic of Reality, which, above all else, teaches children to trust tangible evidence over fairy stories.
So what does one do? It’s a dilemma.
Maybe the time will come for me to suggest he investigates a little more deeply, perhaps starting by forensically comparing the soles of daddy’s work boots with the prints left by the unidentified intruder.
But that time is not yet.
Happy Christmas everyone!