When Jonathan was about five or six, he woke me up really early one morning with an important question:- "Dad, how do you spell chicken?". He was not impressed by my inability to do anything without first drinking tea. And later, with his professorial manner well to the fore said that he thought my problem was that I was turning into a Granddad, while he was turning into a dad.
I mentioned that you couldn't be a dad just by growing older, there were other steps along the way. There was a long silence I tried again. "Before you can be a dad, you have to have something special first. Do you know what that special thing is?"
With the air of one facing an unpalatable truth too early in the morning, and with a question sounding in his voice, he replied; 'vegetables?"
One of the things I admire about children is their ability to translate the deep and profound questions of life into their own universe of understanding - of matching the mystery with the mundane and making sense of it.
Sometimes, of course, they're well off the beam and are unable to make any connections. But, at other times, their exuberance and zest for life -and their willingness to chance being wrong - brings a profound insight to important issues and questions. Which, perhaps on this occasion, was a recognition by my son that the good things in life have to be paid for.
Jesus once said that the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to the children. He went further. He said that unless we could become like children, we would never enter it.
I don't think He was saying that, once we’ve become teenagers, we're too old for heaven. I think He was saying that we have to look at the world and respond to the world - in the same way that a child does. To look forward to Christmas with the same calm patience that a child displays. To grab hold of life, and each new day, with uncomplicated joy and excitement. To not be afraid of crying when we're hurt, nor of offering a shoulder to cry on when someone else needs it. Of not being afraid to ask questions when things don’t seem to fit.
And to be able to encompass all the joys and pains of parenthood in the word Vegetables…