–The Borg, Star Trek: The Next Generation
The past few months have been littered with experiences that I cannot adequately put into words. Oh, wait, I’ve got a good one for it: selfish. Yes, they’ve been a bit selfish. Well, not exactly, but kind of. Jack has really started to embrace some of the things that I was passionate about in my own childhood. He proudly declares “Avengers Assemble” while putting together a Captain America puzzle, with the irony being entirely lost on him but not on me. He knows that HE is Luke Skywalker. Daddy is both Han Solo, but sometimes Darth Vader and Mommy is Princess Leia. Chewbacca is a “good wookie, but kind of scary.”
He turns to me and just smiles and says: “It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to meet The Muppets….”
Now, while I’m aware that any three-year old that is plopped squarely in front of a television will start to parrot with the best any Pirate’s Shoulder Companion can muster. What’s remarkable is that Jack is doing all of this without the data to compute. We have a “oh, you’re one of those” screen time policy with Jack for the most part. We’re not New Age-y about it or anything. I’ve just charted the difference in his behavior when he’s given a book he loves versus given an iPhone. I’ve seen how he treats a lack of television, so I’d rather it be a non-issue. As is, Jack watches about an hour of television a week, sometimes it’s less than that.
As usual, Jack has found the information he needs in a books or via the interactions of the ones he loves. He has sticker and activity books about STAR WARS. His freakishly tall for a three-year old stature has ensured him multiple trips to STAR TOURS. Almost everything he knows about Spider-Man, The Avengers and the like have come from reading books with Mommy and Daddy or asking questions while playing with a Captain America toy or doing a puzzle. This is what I love. He has grabbed onto these things with minimal bombardment or indoctrination. Certainly, there was a little bit of me clearing out the denser foliage, but Jack still found them among the trees of the forest of ALL THAT IS MARKETABLE TO CHILDREN.
This may be hard to believe, but it’s not even the fact that it’s STAR WARS or super heroes rather than Pepa Pig and SpongeBob. It’s not that when asked “What does Obi-Wan say?” Jack will repeat “The force is what gives a Jedi his powers. It’s an energy field that surrounds us, penetrates us, it binds the universe together.” It’s not that I am starting to share in an experience with my son that will take our relationship to amazing new places. It’s really not. It’s the passion that he shows. It’s just passion. That’s what makes me tear up when he starts humming the Imperial March. That what makes me smile ear to ear when he looks at me and yells “Hulk, SMASH!” before charging at his dad. It’s the ability to, like I do, love something that exists out of pure imagination. I see it in him all the time. I see him moving his fingers to an inaudible theme song. I see him fighting a war in his eyes with an imaginary enemy light years away. I see it in him because I still do the exact same thing.
Like Jack, I still enjoy getting lost in my imagination. An imagination that has been fueled by the tales of others and refitted with the tales I have created in my own head. Being stuck in Los Angeles traffic can suck, if you’re not pretending that you’re actually stuck in SPACE traffic in a shuttle craft orbiting Rigel 7. With a well-utilized imagination, every traffic light can be an adventure. Every drive-thru can be a space port. Every gust of wind-blown through a gathering of leaves and branches can be a message from God. Now, I’m not delusional. Not entirely. I know what I’m doing and where I am. I just like to play that I’m some one else and somewhere else. It makes when I land back at home and get to look around at all the things I have that are not imagined so much sweeter. My son is so very real. My wife is so very real. My love for both of them and the equation that they are a part of is the most real and most amazing adventure I’ll ever get to take part in. It just doesn’t hurt to practice with a little make-believe.