Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Christmas Carol in September

Okay, okay, I know I'm a grumpy old man. I've turned into Scrooge over the last 5 years. Not only is my cup half-empty, it might be three-fourths empty. So why am I so twisted inside? Why have I changed? Well, those are good questions, worthy of some good answers. But before I get to that, let me describe my experience with the kids the other day.

Marley's ghost appearing to Scrooge. Illustration by John Leech (1817-64) for Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol , London 1843-1844.I was sitting in the "man" chair in the living room, the one where the remote stays on the arm rest most of the time. It reclines and fits me perfectly. My wife seldom gets into it, but I have noticed my boy crawl up into it to try it on for size. Anyway, I was trying to watch some old war movie when I looked around for my kids. I wanted to make sure they weren't getting scared by the 1950's Hollywood representation of war (in black and white of course). Well, they were tucked away in the den playing Legos, marbles, house and some other toy that requires imagination. They were seemlessly integrating these 4 different toys into a massive game of pretend. They even had a couple of stuffed animals involved.

I heard them talking for the animals and making all sorts of sounds to represent engines and falling people and it was just a thing to behold. As usual, that got me thinking about what is going through their heads. Kids' brains are just amazing. They are always thinking and imagining. Mine is always thinking to, but not in the same way. They seem to have no trouble making noises and developing story-lines and including their surroundings to accommodate the situations in their games.

What do we adults do? We tell them to "settle down", "watch out for the fireplace", "quit rough-housing", etc. We try to manage the situations, while children just seem to go with them. They have no inhibitions, while we are just all crumpled up with them. Much of these inhibitions I learned from my parents and other "helpful" adults. But are we being helpful when we put limitations on them?

Oh sure, I guess. We want to ensure their safety and make sure the vase doesn't break, but is that our real motivation? I can't help but think about the old story of a lobster who tried to crawl out of the lobster trap (they have no tops). But he couldn't because the other lobsters at the bottom kept pulling him back down. I wonder if we adults don't do that to our kids. We're old and crabby, so lets make our kids the same way. I don't think we're intentionally trying to do this, but we do it nevertheless.

So why am I crabby these days? As many of you know, I was diagnosed with a heart condition about 3 years ago and another chronic ailment 5 years ago which I won't get into now (trust me, you don't want to know). I believe my fear surrounding these two conditions has turned me into a crabby-pants. I know I used to love to play with my kids and I loved to go outside. Now it seems like I just want to stay inside and not push myself too hard. Why? Fear, it's as simple as that.

I know I blogged about this a while ago, but I wanted to touch on it again, because I think fear is a powerful thing. Now I see how fear controls me, and it's not so simple a thing to get around as I thought earlier. My kids don't have fear, or at least not this kind. Because of that freedom, they are willing to let themselves go where ever their imaginations will take them. Meanwhile, I'm stuck in the chair - frozen and unwilling to get out, unless it means walking over to another chair.

It would appear that I've got a long way to go. I only hope it doesn't take the 3 spirits of Christmas to get me out of my chains.

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