From across the living room I watch him sitting by the coffee table. He’s quiet, and totally intent on what he’s doing.
It’s a puzzle – a typical childhood game – but it’s anything but typical for him.
My son (now three) has never been one to sit still, not from the day he was born. We tried introducing puzzles a while ago but he didn’t have the attention span for it. Or the interest. Whatever it was, puzzles didn’t capture his imagination until recently.
His recent interest was sudden, at least from my vantage point. One day he got a puzzle out and started playing with it. He didn’t think he could do it, so he asked for help. I walked him through the general idea and encouraged him to match the colours and pictures. I showed him how the pieces fit together and how to look for the straight edges and corners to make it easier. But I resisted the inclination to do it for him.
He played around for a bit and then one day took out a box that has four construction-themed puzzles. He already knows how to sort the pieces and figure out which are which – the dump truck, the bulldozer, the digger, and the cement truck – and, glancing as I walked by, I noticed him making little piles.
And then all of a sudden he had a whole puzzle done.
How does this happen? Does someone insert a chip into children’s brains when we’re not looking, helping them achieve the next milestone? Certain things seem instant to me – like somewhere a switched has been flicked.
The developing human brain is a wondrous thing to behold, especially when you’re someone’s mother.
It’s just a puzzle, I know, but it gives me hope. Hope that he will do all right when he starts preschool next week instead of being tortured by the parts of the day that require sitting still. But more than that, it gives me hope that he’ll think about those puzzles and realize he can learn this stuff.
He’s funny – totally confident most of the time, and he definitely has a mind of his own. But there have been times we’ve played something involving some sort of learning and, for reasons I don’t understand, he shrinks.
My first thought is always, “What’s wrong?!” Why does he hesitate? He’s smart and determined and is good at so many different things. But maybe he doesn’t know that. Maybe there’s something inherent in us as humans that makes us think, This will be hard. I don’t know how. I can’t do it. Maybe it’s uncertainty or lack of experience. Or maybe we just aren’t able to believe that we can.
I, personally, believe Yoda was wrong. “Do or do not. There is no try.” That’s not a philosophy I buy in to.
All we have to do is try. That’s all I want my son to do – try. Partly because I want him to see that he is capable of more than he knows. But partly because I don’t want him to be paralyzed by I can’t.
Or maybe Yoda’s right after all. Maybe in trying there is doing.
But I still think trying is enough.