Saturday, September 27, 2008

Umm, this parsley is really good!

That's what MK said the other day as he scooped up the green garnish on the top of his macaroni cheese. The idea of Mr. White Foods Only saying that about any green food, let alone a fresh, highly textured leaf that was sprinkled on another food, was unimaginable as little as a year ago. But then, we were out celebrating his happy completion of a one-week sleep away camp with his school, so we already knew that things can change.

It's all good. He's growing up and learning fast. Every day, the language gets better, richer. He goes at it with gusto these days, starting sentences with phrases like, "Let me tell you the story," or "Let me describe it for you." That might sound pretty ordinary to some people, but to me it's more impressive than the moon landing. If you read any of my old posts on MK's language, you might remember that MK's mum is from Japan and is not that good at English, so she and I speak a lot of Japanese at home. MK never picked it up. To date, his Japanese vocabulary has consisted of: yes, hot, cold and yummy. Today, out for dinner with a Japanese friend, we interrupted MK in a long story he was telling to offer him the last shrimp on the plate. MK's response? "Taberarenai." Which is flawless and complexly conjugated Japanese for, "I couldn't eat it."

You just never know what you are going to see when.

You know, I haven't written much lately (though I am still reading everyone's blogs) because it has been almost all success around here, and that makes for boring reading. But I recently read a few parents in the press and some new blogs that I found going on about what their kids will never experience. It is, first of all, unnecessary. A lot of these folks are talking about kids who are just a little behind. Sometimes we are talking about kids who, at age four, are still speaking in broken sentences. MK still wasn't talking in sentences of any kind at age six or seven, but we knew then that he would be fine, just because we knew that there are a lot of ways to grow up.

The other thing that strikes me about these cries of "He'll never ..." is how short-sighted it is. Granted, MK will never experience the joy of having his Little League team win. But there are plenty of Little League heroes who will never experience the joy of seeing the videos that they make top a hundred thousand views, or who will never have the satisfaction of looking at a globe and knowing that you can name every country on it, describe the flag and list the languages spoken there. Life has so much potential for experiences of every kind, including an infinite list of experiences that none of us has even though of yet. How can people worry about whether or not a few arbitrarily chosen ones will be on list for their child?

We all want our kids to be happy. In my mind, the biggest determiners in happiness are love, overcoming and luck. Love and luck are self-explanatory. People might have different theories about how they work, but I am sure that our influence over them is certainly not simply bounded by the hand we are dealt when we are born. Overcoming is the one that is most under our control. It is the result of decisions made, and of effort, and of habit. The joy of overcoming is available to everyone and at almost any point in life. I have the pleasure of working with people who have recently left lives of addiction and crime in the streets and in mental hospitals. I also hang out with some people who have had more conventional success -- people with art in galleries, books for sale in bookstores. I see exactly the same joy of overcoming in both groups (it's a bit more concentrated in the fist group, given the time in their lives at which I meet them). I have also seen suicidal sadness in both groups. I have also seen both extremes in ordinary, middle class people living what would generally be called normal lives.

In no way do I believe that having things to overcome is a recipe for misery. In all three of the groups that I mention here, the only reliable predictor of trouble is not wanting to try. So, if I got to talk to those people who are locked in the "My child will never..." mode, I would remind them that never is an awfully long time and, long before we get there, we pass through a myriad of opportunities for both sought-after and unimagined successes.