Who teaches kids about tadpole people, anyway? How do they all know to draw a large kinda sorta circle, add squiggles for hair, scribbly splotches for eyes, and any ol’ line for a mouth? Poke sticks out the side for arms (hands are optional), add two more out the bottom (feet also optional), and then color everything purple. Beaming with delight, they present their gifts.
“Oh my,” we say, “this is good! This is very, very good!”
Masterpieces of creativity depicting the essence of humanity through the eyes of a child; destined to be displayed in a place of highest honor—the refrigerator. We see them on office bulletin boards and mechanics’ toolboxes, as well as imprinted on bumper stickers, and coffee mugs, and key chains. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an oversized coffee table book filled with nothing but tadpole people? How about a Tadpole Soup For The Soul, or a Don’t Sweat the Tadpole Stuff, or an Everything I Learned About Life I Learned From Tadpoles? Sometimes, when everyday stress or worry threaten to get the upper hand, a simple visit to the Kitchen Refrigerator Gallery of Fine Art can refresh our outlook, remind us of why we work safely, and help us to refocus on where our priorities ought to be.
Children have a precious perspective of the world. They see things as they ought to be, instead of as they are. When they play, they sometimes blur the line between fantasy and reality, in much the same way as when they pay no attention to where the lines are when coloring a picture. In either case, I am not altogether convinced that this is a bad thing. Theirs is a felicitous suspension of disbelief that has not yet learned to dis-believe. Daddy really is the smartest man in the world. He really can fix anything.
Playacting is a discovery process wherein children experiment with life and formulate personalities. In play, our children become spacemen, firemen, truck drivers, ballerinas, singers, and even (Hillary forbid!) stay-at-home moms baking cookies. It is an absolute joy to watch children interact and repeat entire passages word-for-word from Winnie the Pooh or Veggie Tales without missing a single inflection or nuance. Whether they are imitating horses, unicorns, dinosaurs or bugs, cartoon friends, superheroes, or Bible heroes, character learned, and characters learned, can set the course for a life deemed successful, or a life of empty pursuit.
Thus it is that I have high hopes for my youngest son. In between lions, and tigers, and tickle monsters, a persistent theme has been developing in his life. He thinks he’s a hug.
Now, I’ll admit that at first I thought this was “novel,” and “cute.” But, the longer it goes on, the more it presents a dilemma to the rest of the family. Consider this: is it fair that one family member’s lifestyle choice directly impacts and limits the freedom of the other members? For instance, how can the other seven members be angry, or blue, or frustrated when we know there might be a hug lurking around any given corner? I can no longer bring troubles home from work because the first thing that greets me at the door is a hug. If I complain about the car, I get a hug. If the weather is lousy, I get a hug. Do you have any idea how hard it is to fret when you’ve got a hug around your neck? Worries, stress, anger, and anxiety all melt away in the arms of a hug.
Typically, “the Hug” brings some of his friends along, too, like Loving Trusting Smile, and Twinkling Eyes, and most unnerving of all, “I Love You, Daddy!” I was born a pessimist by nature, and God had to give me a hug. If my son was a passive child, I suppose it wouldn’t seem so bad, but no! He is energy personified. Life is what he does.
What makes the situation particularly troublesome is that hugs don’t wait for you to come to them, as is the case with the Kitchen Refrigerator Gallery of Fine Art. Hugs are on the prowl, actively seeking hearts in need of a connection. Sit down to read—hug. Turn around—hug. Walk into a room—hug. Walk upstairs (Lookout!)—flying hug!
One could refuse a hug, of course,…
…but why? A hug is a mirror to the soul, and the duty of a father is to encourage his children. Alas, I shall simply have to endure this daily reflection which forces me to comb my attitudes, and brush my priorities.
Mornings have always been particularly hard on me. I am not an easy riser. Nevertheless, my son has taught me to cherish them. Sometimes, I can hear him opening and closing his dresser drawers, and I know the spirit of life has awakened and begun to flow anew. Soon, I’ll hear him bounding up the stairs, and skipping down the hall, where he’ll pause just outside my bedroom. The knob will gently turn, the door will slowly open, and a head will appear—one large kinda sorta circle, squiggles for hair, scribbly splotches for eyes, and a big ol’ smile for a mouth. The eyes will twinkle, and he’ll announce,with a grin, “Your hug is here!”
Life is good.
Life is very, very good.