“The bubble isn’t in the middle, but it looks perfect to me!” Micaela proclaims as we check the level one more time as it rests on the pallet.
“Not yet, honey,” I reply, and the wood-moralist in me says, “It’s got to be perfect! Because a strong foundation is key to a well stacked pile.” She nods her head in approval.
We had a cord of wood delivered yesterday to help get us through the bitter cold days of winter ahead. I had planned after work to start stacking it up on these two pallets we were so meticulously leveling, so I could cover it with tarp to stay dry.
Soon these kiddos get tired, however, of minuscule, imperceptible shifts in pallet placement, and they want to move on to woodworking in the garage. As their interest fizzles, so do my plans.
I was trying to delay ‘woodworking’ as long as possible, hoping they’d forget. Hoping they’d get into stacking this wood. Hoping to avoid the mess in the garage. But they insist. And outnumbered four-to-one, we make our way over.
“I need your help to think about this,” I say, not wanting to have to be the problem solver. “Where should we get set up?”
“I don’t mind if we work on the ground,” Micaela says.
“Well, what do you want to build?” I ask.
“I don’t know, but let’s just get the wood out and see what happens!” Which is an ethic of hers I admire. Her ability to move forward with an idea, without getting paralyzed by over-analysis.
After getting them each a piece of wood – which is a feat in itself as one child after another races to get that perfect piece, or is jealous of the other’s piece, or there is some blemish to deal with – I ask, “What tools do you want to work with?”
“I want to hammer!” Micaela says. And of course, the chorus chimes in, “I want to hammer, too, dad!”
“Well, I only have three hammers…” Great, I think. One more thing to fight over. I look longingly over to the wood pile. “Come! Stack us!” I hear it saying.
“Can we nail?” Emeth asks. And visions of cuts, scrapes, bruises and blood race through my head.
“Uhhh…” If I get them set up just right, I think, then I can sneak away to start stacking that wood.
But the floodgate of possibilities is now open, and my window of wood-stacking is closing. I can’t just leave them with sharp and dangerous tools and no oversight.
Just let go of it, I think. It’ll get stacked when it needs to.
Their questions are coming at me rapid fire now. And I try to stave off three at a time, helping the fourth, or answering the next question in queue. Although admittedly, often the third question makes it’s way to the top through sheer volume.
* * *
It always catches me by surprise than when I let go of my agenda and tune in to the present situation, the people and circumstances around me, it changes the air. It transforms moods and attitudes.
I was recently reminded of this while listening to a speaker talk about electron pairs, which spin in opposite directions as they ‘orbit’ their nucleus. If you separate the electron pair by putting one in California and the other in New Jersey (don’t ask me how that’s possible), and you were to change the spin of the electron in California, the electron in New Jersey would also change its spin instantaneously.
Essentially, indicating there is a deeper reality (what we would call the ‘spiritual’ realm), a deeper interconnectedness in our universe than what we can observe with our eyes, and touch with our hands.
This seems to be true in relationships, at least. For example, Rachel and I can tell immediately (most of the time) when the other is perturbed, distracted, or distraught in some way. We feel down to our bones.
This also appears true with our children. That is, when we are distracted or annoyed at them because, for example, they are being too loud, or hurting one another, and we find ourselves wanting to escape the situation rather than enter into it, it seems to make them hunger and cry out more for connection with us. In other words, our resistance seems to foster further resistance in them.
It’s not a formula, of course. Yet what we’ve noticed is that when we are present, their moods and attitudes take a turn for the better.
“Daddy, thank you so much for doing this with us!” Micaela says at one point. The exact point, at which I had let go of my goal of perfectly stacked wood before dusk.
* * *
Their excitement begins to grow as their own plans take shape in their heads. As they give expression to ideas verbally and materially. As their imaginations take off.
They saw, hammer, screw and nail, and their pieces come together. Each their own style and personality. But all serving the same function: a board with hooks to hang things from.
It is a slower, more organic way of learning, I admit. But one that feeds their imagination and excitement. One that allows them to explore and discover. To make mistakes and learn from them. To experience disappointment when something doesn’t turn out as planned. And joy when it does.
Over time I trust they will hone and own these skills.
But for now, we seek to embrace the chaos.