“Have a magical childhood, Sebastian!” it read
As I began this journey as a father the words of the card stuck with me. I began reflecting on it, I began thinking backwards, as I was prone to do then, and I was straining to find a magical memory from my own childhood. I recalled a trip to the US at age 6 (I grew up in Germany) that contained moments of magic (along with moments of terror). I couldn’t think of a handful of moments.
For the most part I remembered feeling less than. Feeling useless. Feeling inferior, insecure, and unsafe. I remembered wondering what the point of it all was, even at six, Sebastian’s age now. I remembered berating, beatings and tears, lying in the middle of my room, sobbing for hours, with all of the plastic toys, all the colors, all the childish crap surrounding me morphing into brick walls and iron bars.
No wonder becoming a dad stirred up an emotion or two within me. In fact, it scared the living shit out of me. The fear was amplified by a slow and steady descent into alcoholism and addiction throughout my so called adolescence and adulthood. The sheer thought of having to act as a father and be the culprit to an innocent boy’s struggle with life, my inevitable failure as a father, the misery I was about to unleash on him, my wife, and myself, all of that brought me to the brink of taking my own life. I mean how could I live with myself, knowing I was about to ruin a little boy’s life from the get-go.
Long story short, I needed to undergo a radical shift, one that would change my psyche, my being, my spirit, one that would change everything. And, that’s another blog post, it was Sebastian who shocked me into getting my shit together, shortly after he turned two.
I never forgot about the notion of a magical childhood, though. It stuck with me, drunk, high, sober, and sad. I knew it wasn’t some of Harry Potter-type shit that the card referred to, my brain wasn’t that fried. With time I realized that the magic lies in the innocence, the zeal for life, the enthusiasm for every new day, every new experience in a child’s life. Everything is magical to a child. My job is to protect this instead of taking it away from him, pulling the rug from underneath him, and destroying the magic forever. Once it’s gone it’s unlikely to return.
I see Sebastian now, at six, and he’s living a magical childhood. He fully embraces and celebrates life as it is. He’s not afraid to be happy, sad, crazy, active, grumpy, lazy, silly, gassy, bored, undecided, moody, aggressive, clumsy, sick, a little bit of a dick at times. He’s allowed to be all of this and more without having to fear that his being, his essence, his soul is being questioned.
Sometimes he yelps like Doc Brown does in Back to the Future, after he sends Marty back to 1985, just because he’s excited about going out. Sometimes he gets so proud of himself that he can’t help but share his achievements with anyone in sight: cashiers, homeless people, older kids who couldn’t give less of a shit. He’s comfortable with who he is and he never doubts himself on a deeper level. That’s pure magic to me. All I can do is give him a nudge here and there, when he drifts a little too far into sketchy territory. I need to make sure he’s not the dick in his class, or the bully, or the smelly kid.
We encourage him to try things out, learn for himself if he likes them or not: karate, soccer, tee-ball, skateboarding, learning to play the drums, reading, and the latest, modeling and maybe acting. As long as school remains the priority and he’s having a blast and any given activity doesn’t become a drag.
Anyway, all I can concede is that Sebastian has become as much a teacher to me on how to be present to life, how to yield to the now as, say, Eckhardt Tolle. He lives and exemplifies what I read about in books. He’s aware of his thoughts, his feelings, and his emotions. He’s conscious. And that, my friends, is the real magic of living. It doesn’t need to ever end.
Unless the child is on a sugar high. Then all bets are off.
Thank you, Katri, for your card six years ago. Your words might have saved my life and spared Sebastian from a very different experience, one I do not wish upon anyone.