When my niece was about 2 ½ years old she had her first tricycle, a little colorful plastic thing. Her little legs could push the petals, but she had a hard time getting it started. To help, we’d position her pointing down any slight grade on the sidewalk or in the quiet parking lot. On the level or when going up the slight grade, to get her started I’d put my foot on the back of her trike and gently give her just enough of a push to get her going. It worked a few times, until she noticed what I was doing. She didn’t like it: she’d reach around to push away at my foot and say, “Me do it! Me do it!”
Well, you know that saying about how having kids allows you to relive your childhood? It doesn’t mean that you get to play with toys again. It means you get an adult perspective on your own childhood years. Getting caught trying to surreptitiously help my 2 ½ year old niece get her tricycle started made me wonder how many times my parents gave me unseen, loving nudges to help me grow into adulthood . . .
My niece will never remember that one summer evening on the tricycle, but someday, when some child in her life tells her, “Me do it! Me do it!” she just might suspect that likewise there were many similar moments in her own childhood, many unnoticed moments of love and nurturing that were, at the time, way beyond her understanding. Maybe this is why when we have children, or when we help raise our loved one’s children, we get closer to our parents.
Thanks, Mom and Dad. Thanks for everything.
Many times I’ve told my young adult niece and nephews to go rob a bank, and I sure hope they take me seriously. Yes, seriously. But not literally.
My previous post (My Tolerance for Drunks) slowly made me remember my exhortation to my family’s next generation. I’ve told them to look at the mistakes I’ve made in my life, the mistakes their mother and father have made, the mistakes other people in their lives have made, and then to go out and make new mistakes.
I’ve urged them to understand that mistakes truly are “learning experiences”, that they’re an unavoidable part of actually living a life, and that they’re not to be ashamed of them as long as their intent was good and not merely careless. But, if you look at the lives of our family and some friends, you can see that except for the characters and the settings and the details, some of the stories are pretty much the same. So why relive those stories when there are so many other “stupid”, fun, and colorful things to do? Go out and make new mistakes! Go out and break new ground, go out and make grand follies, go out and make a whopper, a doozie, a humdinger, a ripsnorter of a mistake! Give your grandkids something to talk about! Go out and rob a bank – no one we know has done that yet!
I say it as a joke, and they know that. If I lectured them they wouldn’t listen or wouldn’t remember; if I told them to read volumes on life management skills, they probably wouldn’t get around to it until their 30’s. So when we talk about college and careers and relationships and paths through life, somewhere in there I remind them to go rob a bank. Hopefully the phrase will become shorthand for them: I like to imagine them someday thinking about risking a business startup or moving to Thailand or risking a business startup in Thailand or whatever, and telling their spouses, “Honey, I think it’s time we go out and rob a bank!”
2014, Mik Hetu, author of Napism.Info (for people who take their naps “religiously”)