Caine’s Arcade: Recognizing the incredible potential of great imagination

Every once in a while I come across a story where all the planets align, the good people come out on top, and I’m afforded an opportunity to sit back and truly appreciate how powerful a tool the Internet can be. This is one of those stories.

The summary is this: a 9-year-old boy named Caine built an elaborate arcade out of cardboard boxes at his father’s auto parts store. And then he waited for the customers. Eventually, one showed up. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll let you watch this video and see how it unfolds.

One final thought: There is power, to be sure, in this new inter-connected world. But it pales in comparison to the power of a great imagination.

I’d love to hear what you think…

[Note: I first saw this video about 5pm today. At the time, Caine’s crowd-sourced scholarship fund was at $88,000. Five hours later, it’s grown to nearly $103,000. Further proof, I think, that creativity still matters. I tip my hat to Nirvan Mullick for recognizing a great story when he saw it and thank him warmly for telling it. Here’s a link to Caine’s Arcade’s Facebook page.]

 

Is the ‘parenting bargain’ worth it?

I was thinking this morning that the human reproductive process offers an odd bargain: a few moments of pleasure followed by several months of discomfort, culminating in an event that– for most people– requires hospitalization.

So it is with parenting: brief flashes of delight surrounded by extended periods of pain, suffering and repetition. It often seems that the role we play as parents could be accurately assumed by a tape recorder, since we spend the majority of our time repeating ourselves (“brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush your teeth”) hoping for a glimmering moment of gratification (“You already brushed your teeth? That’s awesome!”) Except, of course, for those things you really don’t want them to learn. I can tell them a thousand times to pick up their socks without making an impression at all, but let one careless utterance escape that includes a word they shouldn’t repeat and all you’ll hear is “damn, damn, damn, damn…” If you think this can’t possibly be true, picture in your mind my 4-year-old son, sitting at the kitchen table, who looks up at me and says, “Dad, these apples are damn good!”

Kids– and everything about raising them– can be the most frustrating aspect of our lives. And most of us put ourselves in this position willingly! It’s as if someone offered you a choice: Would you rather live with this person that you’ve chosen (after a protracted and difficult search), have quite a bit of free time, extra income, and the freedom to do as you please with your vacation time for the rest of your lives, or… none of the above?

Parents, in an act that seems to defy all logic, willingly choose the latter. And for what? That smile on a baby’s face that is reserved only for you? Those hugs when a toddler wraps his arms and legs around you as if he’ll never let go? Those moments when she lays her head on your shoulder and sleeps, with no concern for anything else in the world, completely at ease in your arms and assured of her safety? That instant of discovery when you see them realize something, completely on their own, for the first time? When all the planets and stars align and someone you know, without prompting, says something like, “She’s a great kid” about one of yours?

Well, yes, actually. Exactly that, all of that, and more. While my kids aren’t quite old enough yet to break my heart, I know those days are coming. But I welcome them, just as I welcome each of the daily struggles and turmoil, because they are all the essence of parenting, bracketed by those other moments of perfection that make it all worthwhile. Can a simple smile or a hug or a statement like “I love you, Daddy” really be worth suffering all those other moments?

Absolutely. I’d choose door number two every time.

Neighbors Still

I stand at the open door,
one child – exhausted – with her head on my shoulder
another burning energy and adrenaline
by endlessly circling my legs
like a kite who’s string has been cut.

It’s late.
We’ve stayed too long, had too much fun,
and we all know we’ll pay for it in some measure in the morning,
but this is the very definition
of the long goodbye.

These are not “wave from the door friends”
they are “walk you all the way ‘til the sidewalk ends” friends,
and so we stand at the car, only slightly awkward,
offering hugs and thanks and promises to do this more often.

And we pause before leaving
grasping at the tenuous bonds of friendship
knowing our attention will only become more diverted over time
and these times together will certainly become more rare.

Yet they are precise, nearly priceless moments of perfection
where we strike a careful balance
between reminiscing about the past
and marveling at the future.

So even though six large men and a moving truck
have scrambled our zip codes,
we linger and we promise and we hope
because we are – after all – friends, family, and neighbors still.