It is about a game. Cute, old-fashioned design, itty bitty characters that look like baby crocodiles… Yes, sigh, the one Nintendo game little boy gets to play is wrapping him up in frustration like a cocoon.
What a long day the day had been. School in the morning, a laughter-all-around Lego building time with a friend who came for a visit, plus a whole lot of playing outside with big brother in and around a melting igloo… And so much more, all that a child’s world brings for him to see, smell, fear, dare through, be silly about, be serious about, be there every minute of a day so long and rich.
‘I cannot do it!’ He says it again. Loud, frustrated, chin trembling.
The mom that I am wants to say ‘You can do it’ but how is that not patronizing when a kid is frustrated to sky and back. Games like that are not easy, I am told. Like many things in life, there are levels. You learn, you persist, you get to the next. But when you only have one hour and fifteen minutes three times a week to make it happen… a battle ensues, I am also told.
Here is the things though: When the world tells so often of things you can get just like that – yes, instant gratification is an occurrence that creates false realities whether we want it or not in our children – what to make then of the occasional hurdle? Electronic game or not, frustration caused by inability to do what you want to do, what you expected to be able to do so easily, or somehow hoped that invisible arms will make it happen for you… how to then?
‘I cannot do it!’ If you’re a little boy, and tired, you say it again and again. And big brother looks into your big round sad eyes and says ‘I can help you.’
Mom (that’s me) says ‘That is not help, but cheating.’ Two boys, four eyes, big and bright and wondering… But to help, Mama, just this time, I can help him… Big brother melts, understands and insists. To help is to tell him he can do it, I tell him.
“But I cannot!’ Feet stomping, big pouty face. Hug? Yes and no wrestle on his face. ‘I can’t.’
Yes, you can one step at a time… ‘No, I cannot!’ Tears. Sadness. A thought strikes true. I turn to my screen and type ‘inspirational man with no arms and no legs’. Just like that. I had heard about him but never really searched properly; there are only that many hours in a day. Today has more.
The two boys and their four big eyes watched and listened, and I did too, peeking at their faces and wondering about it all. You can search and see. Nick Vujicic is his name and he will inspire you.
He talks about frustration, about failing again and again and not giving up, he talks about taking steps – one at a time, to reach your destination. He talks about falling down and getting up, and how it never ends until it ends… He would know.
Two boys with bright big eyes looked at me and asked ‘how could he do all of that?’ knowing the only answer there is. Because he did not give up; because he chose to see the gifts that he had, rather than cry about the ones he did not have.
Sighs, smiles, crooked and sweet, no more tears.
‘Mom?… I can try again.’ Yes indeed. Thank you. I was grateful for help. All settled and peaceful, the evening rolled along like a big, grey and soft caterpillar, smiling at us… until. Until it all went black again, and a crow of hungry ‘Can I please have help just this time?’ swooped down and scattered the caterpillar’s fluff all over. ‘I cannot’ returned for one last flight through the house.
No, I will not, could not, should not. Allow for that kind of help.
That’d be like falling back twenty steps after you’ve advanced ten I tell them. They stop and listen. ‘But not every time,’ they plead, ‘just this time.’ I trade hugs and stories for half-smiles and listening ears. No is a must.
I am not cruel, but loving this. What a good chance. Sit down then. Boys listen to stories of little kids crying because they could not draw like their older siblings could; getting help when help meant locking them in a box that said ‘I cannot by myself…’ and how love should be fair, and encouraging and never ever indulging in ways that cripple. I tell stories of people lost, people who loved ones help by saying no. It turns serious but they listen.
Faces lit with smiles. Yes, they get it. Yes, they feel loved when a no is lovingly said, and fair and encouraging, and I do too. I thank the man who gave us a push today over the hurdle.
No arms, no legs, no worries, he says. How could one do it like that? By not giving up, by getting up again when falling, by reminding yourself of the brightness of the day when the night threatens with too much darkness… using the light of the day to brighten the night ahead. Belief.
The night caterpillar returns fluffy and grey and sleepy. Grateful. We snuggle on the couch reading stories of mice with big ears and big courageous hearts and then we snuggle some more. Bedtime, hugs, ‘your special kisses, mom, and then I’ll give you mine…’ A nightly ritual that brings sparkles from many days of love and brightness into all the nights that threaten to be too dark. Not now, not yet, not ever?…
Goodnight, sleep tight, wake up bright… Two boys with bright eyes and big smiles learned a lot today, I did too; they’ve grown so much and so have I. More tomorrow, again and again… one step, two steps, can never take two at the same time. Just as long as you know where you’re going… When you forget, I’ll remind you both. Of a day, of tears, of smiles, of a day so bright and a night so soft… Goodnight…