Why Does Size Matter Not?

I’ve been home sick for a couple of days, and I’m feeding my son breakfast before getting him off to kindergarten and then collapsing on the couch. He loves it. He’s taking the opportunity to ask me questions (“how would you blow up a planet?”), and talk to me, and show off his progress reading.

“Dad,” he asks, “what did Yoda mean when he told Luke that size matters not when your ally is the Force?”

“Well, son,” I say, trying to use this as a teaching moment, “it’s all about how he lifted the X-wing. Did he use his muscles, and drag it out of the swamp?”

“No,” my son said.

“You’re right. He used the Force.” I leaned forward, just a little. “And he meant that, if you believe in yourself and believe you can succeed, you can do anything you want.”

He considered that, then last ones at me. “Dad?”

“Yes, son?”

“Would you rather fly an X-wing, or the Death Star?”

This is going to be a little different, isn’t it?

Yep. Believe it or not, this isn’t a science blog. It’s a blog dedicated to trying to answer my son’s questions. It’s just that, most of the time, he asks questions that I can answer with science.

Size matters not

This really isn’t one of those questions. I mean, sure. There are probably studies on confidence and how it generates success. But that’s not the point, not really.

My son is six. To him, the world is a huge, exciting place filled with wonder and possibility and excitement. And, thanks to him, I’m being reminded that the world is filled with wonder and possibility and excitement. So, as I see it, it’s my job to encourage him and teach him and help him take advantage of everything the world offers.

That starts with confidence.

See, I’m well aware that there are things that are by definition impossible. But I’m also aware that, all too often, we look at things that are merely difficult and declare them “impossible”. “I can’t get out of debt.” “My family can’t make it on one income.” “I’ll never get in shape.” “I’ll never be able to retire.” A million fears become a million reasons to never try.

I don’t want my son to learn that. Not from me, anyway. “Dad,” he’ll say, “I’m going to build a robot!” Or he’ll declare to me that he’s going to build a speeder bike, or a lightsaber, or buy a house next to us so we won’t get lonely, or that he’s going to fly. And it would be easy to accidentally crush his dreams, in the name of “teaching” him.  Instead, I try to respond with this: “Cool! That might be hard, though. How should we start?”

“So certain are you. Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?”

For the record, we have never built a robot, or a speeder bike, or a lightsaber that works outside our imaginations. That’s mostly due to the fact that sticks and rocks and Legos and paper aren’t the optimal components for such things. But we’ve spent hours working on them, and chasing each other with them, and playing and learning.

My son’s got plenty of time to learn that some things may very well be actually impossible. Right now, though, he’s learning a more important lesson: if you fail, and you still want to do it, try doing it a different way.

“Size matters not, when your ally is the Force.” Sure, I can’t teach my son to move an X-wing with his mind. But I can teach him that it can be moved, and that he can use his mind to figure out the way. And I can teach him to try again, and try something different, if he doesn’t succeed. And to remember that you don’t fail unless you give up.

In the process, maybe I’ll learn it again for myself.

Advertisements

Can you come with me, daddy?

It’s Father’s Day tiday, and we’re at church. The service is over, and we’re in the Great Hall taking part in the monthly potluck lunch when my so asks me if he can go to the bathroom. Of course, I say yes. Then he looks at me and asks his question:

“Can you come with me, daddy?”

For a moment, I consider saying no. I’m in a conversation, after ai, and the church isn’t very big. He knows how to find the bathroom by himself. But he’s staring up at me with his big blue eyes, and I sigh and say yes.

As soon as I say yes, he smiles big and wide and grabs my hand and we’re off. The “whole way” (maybe a hundred feet) he’s chattering to me about five year old things, right until I ask him why he wanted me to go with him.

“In case I get scared,” he tells me.

Wait. Where’s all the research?

This is a different entry, folks. There’s no crazy facts, no research, nothing like that. Just a Father’s Day musing on being a father.

My own father died over 20 years ago and, although the pain of that loss has faded over the years, there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t missed him. I’ve got a lot of memories of him, naturally, and there’s one in particular I’m thinking of right now.

I was about my son’s age -five, maybe sux – and I’d had a particularly vivid nightmare. A monster if some sort, with purple skin the texture of a football, had wanted to cut off my skin with safety scissors and eat it. I woke up screaming and crying, and this time it was my dad who came to see what was wrong. I told him I’d had a bad dream, and asked if I could sleep in his bed.

He said no. But then he said he’d stay with me so the bad dream wouldn’t come back.  Then he tucked me in, and sang to me until I was asleep.  He kept his promise, too – the bad dream didn’t come back.

As a grown-up, I know that he probably went back to bed once I fell asleep. It was late, after all, and he had to get up early to go to work. But, despite needing sleep himself, he was there when I needed him.

He always was. Right up to the day he was too sick to do it any more. And then it was my turn to be there for him, until he wasn’t there any more.

So, can I go with my son?  In case he gets scared?  Yes. Yes, of course I can. As long as he needs me. Because I want to be as good a father for him as my dad was do me.  As long as I can.

Happy Father’s Day, everyone.