Monthly Archives: February 2013

Catching the mudball

“Dad, can I bring my mudball inside?” – Jacob

“Ooo, dad, I need a mudball too!” – Oliver

You’d have to have been there to see how excited Jacob was about his mudball. We had been out hiking down by the creek a day after a rain, and he, well, made a mudball and carried it around with him. I’m not used to finding mud all that exciting. To me, mud is something that my car can get stuck in, that my boots can drag into the house, that needs to be suppressed by a little gravel on top.

But to Jacob, he was holding a ball of excitement, of adventure, of discovery. And Oliver wanted in on the fun!

Jacob wasn’t thinking about consequences of bringing a mudball indoors, because he didn’t need to. He wasn’t visualizing the damage it could cause, the time of cleaning it up, or even the fact that a mudball doesn’t really stay a mudball permanently. He just wanted to carry his ball of excitement with him.

Being a parent means being a teacher, an example, and a leader. It is fine for Jacob to not think about the consequences of bringing a mudball into the house at age 6, but part of my duty as a parent is to make sure he thinks about consequences by the time he gets behind the wheel of a car. As we grow up, we are shown, taught, and prodded into thinking about consequences of our choices: getting good grades in school, thinking about the impression the clothes we wear to a job interview might leave, worrying about what people think about us when we talk in front of a group. We take on real responsibilities when we leave childhood, and the consequences of our actions become more significant.

But where’s the “off” switch? Shouldn’t there be a way for us to wonder about bringing the mudball indoors, too?

There was a time in our lives when we didn’t care one bit about whether we were wearing fashionable clothes, making a good impression, or doing things the “right” way. After being in the mindset of taking careful responsibility over life for so many years, it’s hard to re-discover that earlier time.

A colleague forwarded a little speech about Thanksgiving. It contained, “Those who live in thanksgiving daily have a way of opening their eyes and seeing the wonders and beauties of this world as though seeing them for the first time.”

This is something children know how to do, and we adults have often forgotten, because we are too busy worrying about dirty floors and stained curtains to see the potential for fun in mud.

I am convinced that, just as important as being responsible, is learning how to let go, to let our hearts feel peace and joy as if a child. We can’t open our eyes and see the wonders of this world if we’re too busy worrying about convincing someone else to vote for our preferred candidate, about saying things perfectly, about being right.

There’s beauty in that daily commute in a car or subway. Look around, and you might see kids with their noses pressed to the window, even if it’s mostly black tunnel outside. There’s wonder in that business flight, in the mud, in the doctor’s office waiting room.

When I see people using insults in a discussion thread on the Internet, I am saddened, because it means they have lost sight of the wonder of being able to communicate with and understand a person thousands of miles away, instantly, and are more worried about their position looking good, or are unable to see the beauty in a person that thinks differently.

I once had this conversation with Jacob in an airplane, probably surrounded by people impatiently waiting to turn on their electronic devices:

“Jacob, we are in the air!”

“Woooooooow!”

“Jacob, we’re flying!”

“Dad, I don’t know that I’ve ever been a butterfly before!”

I hope we can all find ways to be a butterfly more often.

The Superbowl Pirate Bus

I’ll forgive you for not noticing the bus full of pirates at the Superbowl. Because, well, unless you saw my 6-year-old, you have a pretty good excuse for missing it. I’ll give you the Goerzen Superbowl play-by-play, just to make sure you’re caught up. It involved pirates, cops, tractors, cookies, a card game, and yes, even troubles with HDMI.

We were invited to a Superbowl party, and were going to bring a party snack. The boys love to help cook, and I try to give them choices. I started naming off potential snacks, starting with healthy options. They listened attentively, until I mentioned cookies.

“COOKIES! ***COOKIES!*** Yes, cookies!”

This reaction was, I must say, not exactly a surprise.

Then I asked them what KIND of cookies. Jacob immediately knew what he wanted, so of course Oliver took a minute to come up with something else. No matter; we could make two kinds of cookies. Jacob, of course, picked a kind of cookie that needs cherries, while Oliver picked one that needs chocolate chips. Thus they both had opportunities to “have a small taste” of ingredients while we prepared the batter.

And so make cookies we did. Plus a loaf of bread. Anyhow, once we got to the party, Jacob and Oliver saw a huge tub of Legos and were at it in a flash. One of Jacob’s friends was pretending everything was a tractor, but it wasn’t long before Jacob started in on his evening’s project: building the largest bus he could build.

He was pleased when he got 4 lego people into it. Even more happy when he got 10 into it. And by the time he figured out how to get 35 into it, he was quite proud of himself indeed. Oliver, meanwhile, in classic little brother fashion, tried to corner the market on surplus lego people. He appears to have the hardline negotiation skill down already, and perhaps is appreciating the value of artificial scarcity in the lego market

Eventually the bus seemed to hit the limits of engineering and joint strength, and Jacob gave up for a little while. He had a cookie and some carrots, commented on the exciting game of Uno going on, (“Who is the loudest?” “All of them!”), brought me some carrots, and periodically commented that “The ball team is ahead of the SF team. Sure is. They have more points!” (This from the “BAL” and “SF” text on the screen.)

And then he went back to playing. And here’s where the pirates come in.

Jacob’s new bus had a lego flag that he decided was a pirate flag. So the bus was a pirate bus. He built a platform out the back for them to use to “steal things”. So his pirate bus went around the lego area, stealing this from one pile, stealing that from another, until it got almost as long as his first bus.

Pretty soon, along came a police boat to chase the pirates. But the police boat appeared to suffer a humorous series of logistical failures and never could quite disrupt the pirates. But never mind that, for little brother Oliver was getting bored with the lego mountain he was building and decided it would be more fun if he would disrupt the pirates. An opinion that Jacob quite strongly disagreed with.

When it was time to go, Jacob tried to extract a promise from the party hosts to not let anyone take apart the pirate bus until next time we would be there.

Then this morning, Jacob and I had a discussion about pirates.

“Dad, are pirates real?”

“Yes, Jacob, they are.”

“Do they steal things?”

“Yes, but they are far away. There are no pirates here.”

“Are there pirates in Kansas?”

“No. There are some pirates in Africa though.”

“Oh. What state is Africa in?”

“Africa is so far away that it isn’t even in a state. You’d have to take a boat or a plane to get there.”

“Or a train!”

“Nope, a train couldn’t get across the ocean. It’s too wide!”

“They’d build a bridge!”

“It’s too wide for a bridge. It’s more than a thousand miles!”

“WOW – a thousand miles! Great! OK dad, it’s time for me to get on that school bus!”