“I don’t need a grown-up to help.”

October 2, 2013

Notable Stats

False Knowledge Ratio (FKR) – The percentage of information a child has that they are enacting in the world as a function of what is actually factual information.

Times True (TT) – The number of times a child has to say something to be wholly convinced that it is unequivocally the truth.

My wife and I learned a valuable lesson this week. It came from a moment when the frustration of repeating ourselves to our kids melted away from the stark realization that we have to accept that they are just acting their ages, a mob of humans under six years old. This particular epiphany led us to note that our son is just being five, and that is OK as long as nothing he is doing is poisoning another person. Of course, this surreal ray of acceptance only lasts 45 seconds, but it made an impact. And thankfully, nothing or no one really got hurt in the end.

As is typical, when we show our son anything that gets him excited, he wants to do it right then and there. He also has the skilled ability to inflate and escalate that excitement to take what was a calming gardening experience on a pristine sunny day and turn it into the feeling of going to the emergency room in New York City during rush hour… and having to take the subway to get there.

On one particular day, he was fired up about gardening. He took it upon himself to sneak out some seeds and plant them in the mulch underneath a bush. After getting challenged on multiple fronts for not listening, for taking seeds without asking, and for going outside without telling anyone (to plant them), he seemed unusually calm later. He was sure he was helping plant the garden and to provide food for his family.

We reiterated the point that he needs to draw up his plans first, then bounce them off of a grownup. Then get approval for what is safe for him to do on his own. He later responded with the confidence of being a farmer for over 50 seasons. He knew what to do, he can apparently will plants to grow in any climate under any circumstance.

We eventually quizzed him to point out why he doesn’t quite know what he needs to know to do this on his own. We ended up finding out that he actually knew less than that. But he was pure of heart.

By this time, he answered every question confidently, willing them to be true, impressing upon us that although our argument is heavily weighed down by facts and the laws of the sun, that our points are irrelevant when dealing with a being that can make his own facts and laws by the angle by which he tilts his elbow when he is pouring seeds out of the pouch.

This elbow motion apparently negates the fact that the seeds only can be viable if they are planted in the spring. The fact that we were nearing fall is just background noise. He hammered home the point, that if he doesn’t know it, it must be completely unnecessary information to have in his head. When we pointed out the multiple problems with his approach, he looked at us almost mockingly. Basically saying “So what?”

So it was irrelevant that the seeds he was planting were in the wrong season. It was also irrelevant that he was planting in mulch over concrete under a shrub. It mattered not that, oh by the way, he could not read the package and he still didn’t see that as a possible indication that he should ask for help. Then the clincher was when we asked him what season we are in, he replied “I don’t know.”

So we have a Kindergarten farmer working our garden that is using seeds for the first time with no help and cannot read the packet instructions. He also does not have any inkling what season we are in. We have organic food, then we have “inorganic.” Inorganic comes with the guarantee that it will not grow.

We reminded him to stop flying solo on his projects. Bounce it off of someone. Ask a question or two to understand how to get it done well. Then get some help from your parents. Fortunately we are literate, and know our seasons and still recognize that we have a lot to learn.

- Doug Glanville

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