A friend I knew some years ago taught me an indispensable lesson. Well, in conjunction with his young son anyway. Like a lot of things in life, the memorable event came totally out of the blue and changed the way I look at things forever.
I was living in Calgary and writing for the Calgary Herald. At the same time I was producing and hosting a newsmagazine program for the local CTV affiliate, so my life was busy, hectic and full. Downtime was usually a fast nap, a good book and music.
My friend and his wife were high school sweethearts. They married and had a son they adored.
They had a dog and a cat, lived in a solid, quiet, respectable neighbourhood and were surrounded by family. In short, they had everything in their life I didn’t.
The magic of friendship drew us together. I spent a lot of time in their home and many summer nights watching Calgary’s triple-A baseball team and teaching the kid the rudiments of a great, grand game. He was eight. I ‘m not sure he loved the game that much but he sure loved hanging with his dad and I.
Their son had a learning disability. Things did not come easily to him and he struggled in school. His parents spent huge amounts of time working with him. Sometimes their frustration was hard but I admired their loyalty and their fortitude.
One night, while his wife was out, my friend was trying to get his son to concentrate. The boy sat at the table with his head leaned on his palm. His dad got a bowl of Cheerios to snack on and before pouring on the milk he took three dry ones and made a small stack on the table. The kid’s eyes lit up.
For the next hour they stacked Cheerios. The boy went at it deliberately and when his wife came home she stood in the kitchen doorway and was amazed at the concentration the boy displayed. “Why on Earth are you stacking Cheerios?” she asked.
Without taking his eyes off the task, their son said, “Because Rice Krispies are impossible.”
Stacking Cheerios became a ritual. Whenever I was over for supper, the challenge became to see who could arrange the highest stack.
The four of us would sit around the table with a huge bowl of Cheerios in front of us and work at erecting a tower of oats. Eventually, their son set the record at 29 centimetres.
Those nights were magical. We laughed, teased and cheered each other on. You could feel the connection between us crackling in the air. Their son had never been happier and when the focus from that game was translated to his work in school, I wasn’t really surprised.
They moved to follow work and we lost touch. But their son was thriving in school when I last saw him. These days I don’t eat Cheerios but I still look back at that adventure as a touchstone in my life.
We owe our kids the gift of wonder. For all the focus on grades, achievement and progress, the gift of wonder gets short shrift sometimes. We’re too damn busy. Or things seem silly. But magic exists in the smallest of things and we need to let the kid energy in us reach out to theirs.
Point to a star. Tell them a story. Take time to stack memories one by one. Why?
Because Rice Krispies are impossible.