I could write an entire book chapter on this photograph. It marks everything that is wonderful about being almost three years old, and everything that is difficult about being temporary and uprooted – all at the same time.
Mr. T. loves his trucks, and the dirt, and playing according to his own rules, and being with the people he knows and loves, and having time and space to play and explore without any restrictions. And this afternoon he found the perfect spot… except our front garden isn’t safely fenced in, and it was time to come in for dinner, and he couldn’t just stay out there by himself, and he doesn’t know his way around our neighborhood.
He just wants to be a kid and to sit in the dirt and play. But he is having to learn that it’s not all about him, and that he has to interact with the world around him; and that’s a lot to ask when you’re just two years and eleven months and you have been traveling all summer and you don’t even have a home base or your own room to retreat to.
And so we told him he had to bring his truck inside, but we’re sorry, the dirt has to stay out in the garden. Sigh.
I really feel for him. I love his enthusiasm and his sweet little voice and his imagination and his prodigious vocabulary. And I so want to see him sitting in a pile of dirt with his trucks in a place where he doesn’t have to be so closely monitored, or managed, or hemmed in.
I wonder how much trouble any of us would get into if we had the space and the freedom to work things out without always having to hear someone say, “no”?
Part of me really misses working in Child Development, and setting up environments where children are more likely to hear “yes!” and “way to go!” and “you’re making such great choices!” and “I love what you’re doing in that pile of dirt!” And less likely to be confronted with “no!” and “stop that!” and “I don’t want you making such a mess!”
Then the other part of me is just exhausted even thinking about it!
But we are social beings, and the important thing is that we learn to thrive where we are – even if it’s not always exactly what we want, and we don’t always get our way.
Mr. T. is not even three quite yet; he is learning and growing and I have every confidence that he is going to thrive. But some of us are supposed to be grown people and yet we still have a long way to go when it comes to seeing anything other than our own egocentric view of the world.
We won’t ever really thrive until we place the needs and the opportunities and the futures of others ahead of our own. Such growing up lies at the heart of the great teachings of Jesus.
I am confident my grandson Mr. T. is going to get all of this very soon, and that he will absolutely thrive. How about the rest of us? – DEREK