Sunday, April 8, 2007

In Search of the Golden Egg

Today we trekked to Grandma's house for Easter lunch (or, as Big T would call it, Linner) and a big Easter Egg hunt outside. Okay, the Easter Egg hunt was a surprise that I wasn't expecting. We'd already had one of those yesterday, in our town, provided annually by an incredibly generous local family and families (including ours) who volunteered boiled eggs for other (older) local kids to color and hide. It's a big community effort, and one which the whole town enjoys, and costs no individual a penny, beyond the time and effort and the cost of boiled eggs. The event this morning had as it's goal the discovery of two golden eggs, which were essentially regular eggs wrapped in gold foil. Though no different than any other egg in essence, the key is that they are percieved as different. And that made them so.

The climax yesterday came when all the eggs had been found, except for one of the golden eggs. The adult in charge pointed in a general direction, and all the kids, baskets in hand full of just-counted eggs, took off in search of that final elusive prize. I took off with Lil T in tow, to his sad lament that he wouldn't be the one to find it. That made me a little sad. I know we've all been there—wanting the thing that seemed just out of reach, and, fearing the wanting too much, telling ourselves in advance that we wouldn't get it, before we're even out of the gate. It's a safety mechanism, a self-preservational tool to avoid disappointment. But it's also a trap for low expectations, and a too-easy pattern to fall into.

I pushed him a bit, trying to imagine the ego boost he'd get from finding it. "You can do it," I said,pulling his hand along, trying to transfer excitement, "You can be the one to find it as easily as anyone else. Don't give up. It's not over until it's over." He was boosted by this, and energized to run faster, look harder, and believe, just for a few minutes, that maybe he really could find it.

Until he didn't. When the cheer came up just four yards from us that a little toddler had found the egg, Lil T was deflated, but also, as disconcerting to me, justified in his own mind. He said, almost proudly, "I told you I wouldn't find it." He wasn't sad about it, just confirmed in his initial assumption, and I think that shook me a bit more than if he had been sad. I let it go at that point, planning on talking to him later about it, after the rush of the initial hunt. I mean, there were all the eggs that he did find to count and appreciate, and the significance of that was beginning to dawn on him. I didn't feel it was exactly the right time for a teaching moment, and the moment, like all important moments, passed too quickly.

Fast forward to today, this afternoon, after a fun morning and breakfast on the road to Grandma's. And a second hunt. Here, there were only three kids in the hunt, Big T, Lil T and their cousin J, but also, unfortunately, only one golden egg. When Grandma announced this, I was a little concerned. I mean, typically, when there are three grandkids, the grandparents provide three prizes. Not my rule, or even my choice, just something my wifes parent's have adopted. This can be annoying sometimes, as I'd sometimes prefer the two boys to share the same toy, rather than having them engage in parallel play constantly, and subsequently either have to deal with tracking two sets or waiting for one to break so we could get more awkwardly to the point of sharing that we should have been at in the first place. There's something bonding in taking turns.

But in this instance, three golden eggs, with a rule that you can only find one, would have been preferable. But that wasn't the plan, and it wasn't my house. And also, part of me was harkening back to yesterday, and the missed teaching opportunity—something like, "sometimes you get the golden egg, and sometimes you get the golden shaft"—came to mind. I laid back to see where it went. Maybe Lil T would find it, this time. Ah, vainglorious hope.

Again, he approached the game disarmingly, saying he certainly wouldn't find the golden egg. I've said before to him and his big brother-if you think you won't succeed at something, you'll be right 100% of the time. If you think you will, you'll be right more like 50% of the time, and increase your odds as you go along. You always have a chance to give up, but don't do it at the start. You've got to give yourself a chance. And the game started off great, with the kids scrambling for the eggs in equal measure. And then Big T found the egg. And Lil T literally fell to his knees, heartbroken.

Scooping him up amid sobs of "I never find the golden egg," I found my opportunity. We scrambled around it a bit, but I think I imparted the three bits I had sorted out for him.:
1) That sometimes you don't get what you want, but it's always important—no, more, essential—to try.
2) That sometimes you will get the golden egg, and when you did, it will feel great, but it doesn't have to feel proportionally bad not to get it. It's just this time. You just didn't get it this time. And
3) That he should look at all that he had—a bag full of eggs, a fun day at Grandma's, the love of his family surrounding him—all topped off with his Dad holding him in his arms and carrying him back to the house out of the cold afternoon. What he had was worth so much more than what he didn't. All of this was his golden egg, and, again, it's about noticing what you have not focussing on what you lack.

By the time we were back inside, the tears were dried, and he was remarking with smiles on how, after he cried, his skin felt all crinkly where the tears had been, and isn't that interesting. The sadness had evaporated with the tears, and in seconds he was excited about the eggs he had found again.

So, this all left me thinking about the golden eggs we all search for, in life. Sometimes we get it. Sometimes we just miss it. And sometimes, we see it, just a second too late, just before it's snatched up by another. Maybe, we think, we'll never find that egg. Maybe we'll always be just a little too late, a little too slow, a little too unlucky or unskilled, or unprepared. Maybe we ought to just settle for teh otehr colored eggs that life provides, and stop trying so hard for that special something. That's we've got to have that faith that it will be our turn one day, that there is a golden egg out there for us, or a turn to find it in our future. We have to believe that in order to continue, and more, in order to make that prediction truth. And it must be truth.

For A mans reach should exceed his grasp, else what's a heaven for?

Happy Easter.

1 comment:

Sara Kocher said...

I have a quote that's been on my cork board for years and years:

"Who shoots at the mid-day sun, though he be sure he shall never hit the mark, yet as sure he is he shall shoot higher than who aims but at a bush."

--Sir Philip Sidney, Arcadia

I use it to remind myself to aim high and not give up. It's not an easy lesson, so I need the reminder. Best wishes for Lil T on this.