Wednesday, May 23, 2007

lessons from the park

On Saturday afternoon, Mark and I spent some time at Rayner Park with 4 of our middle school friends. We were playing Lava Freeze Tag most of the time (a game that involves a person to be "It" who chases everyone else around the playground - if you're tagged, you freeze, but the wood chips are "lava" so you can only take one step on it at a time. This means that you must leap, climb, and shimmy your way around the park, trying to simultaneously avoid being frozen and unfreeze your "chilly" peers. It's a fun game, but I was tired and wearing shoes ill-suited to the task at hand - hence, I spent much more time being frozen than actually leaping, climbing or shimmying around the park).
During one of my frozen sessions of solitude, I watched a man playing with his two sons. One appeared to be about 8 years old, the other was probably about a year old, and fairly new to walking. Older Son was hanging upside-down, jumping off things, and generally propelling himself around the park much as any young lad would. Dad was chasing Younger Son around, making sure he didn't toddle right off some steps, or inadvertently into the tornado-like path of Older Son. The conversation Dad had with Older Son while chasing Younger Son was kinda cool:
Older Son: Dad, check out what I can do! (does some sort of upside-down flip/leap thing off the parallel bars)
Dad: That's cool, buddy!
Older Son: I can do it every time! Watch! (does it again)
Dad: Great job - but you know, sometimes it's good to do things that are hard for us. If you can do it right every single time, then you're not learning. We get better when we're doing things that we can only do right about half the time.
Older Son: (is losing interest in Dad's motivational speech) Okay.
Dad: (watching Younger Son trying to climb up a slide, land on his rear end, get up, and try again) Toddlers are great at that. They're always trying things that are too hard for them. By the time we grow up, we're not very good at that anymore.
How true! I've always liked learning things - but as I've gotten older, I've grown distinctly more concerned with being "good" at those things immediately. Makes me wonder how much I'm missing out on by being worried I'll look "stupid."

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