Easter was always an extremely important day for my mother, mostly for the religious meaning behind all of it. As children we would get cleaned up, dressed up, and head off to church on Easter Sunday. I found some of the meaning lost behind the formality of it all, but I think I recognized subconsciously that something important to my mother was something I ought to step in line for.
One Easter tradition I did enjoy as a child was coloring eggs. I suppose partly because I enjoy eating eggs, and partly because my limited creativity skills are just about right for dying easter eggs since I would always end up consuming my work before I realized how lame it was.
I hadn't seen Cody for a while, so I made plans to spend Sunday afternoon celebrating his birthday from a few weeks prior and coloring easter eggs. On my way to pick him up, I bought a few egg coloring kits and found myself surprised at how cheap they were. I actually hunted around for more expensive kits based on the assumption that the ones I found were probably going to be disappointing. In actuality, they most certainly were, the colors seemed to take forever to dye the eggs, although who knows, maybe the eggs were genetically engineered to have tougher shells since I didn't buy organic, pastured eggs. Even with vinegar added the dyes just seemed incapable of coloring anything except the grout lines of the countertop when spilled. Why anyone thinks tile is a good choice for a countertop is beyond me.
So, enter the mind of an 11 year old boy. I think Cody had more fun mixing colors together to make various shades of brown, asking me for more versions of purple (his favorite color) and blowing the yolks out of the eggs after poking holes in them so that he might make "smoke bombs". He used his hands to scramble the resulting yolk mix, rendering it unfit for consumption (no biggie, although I did originally intend to cook them and serve to him) and he seemed to eschew the wire egg holders, instead using his fingers which then turned various colors. He also repeatedly shook his dye-soaked hands out on the ground, flicking dye all over the floor tile/grout instead of using paper towels I placed in front of him. All very normal for a child, but he kept me on my toes with the tasks of boiling eggs, cleaning counters and floors, opening the dye packs, filling the cups with water and vinegar, and giving him basic advice.
Which leads me into my insight for the day. I think Cody is a beautiful child, full of hope and possibility. But I see his life as an uphill battle because of the circumstances dictated by his parents, circumstances which are the unfortunate result of an adult population who pushes the ideals of a family below the importance of individual happiness.
I'll explain that in more detail. But first let me rephrase. I think Cody has a rougher road than he would with two parents actively taking care of him. And I'm not saying anything about the quality of parental care because I honestly think the kid would benefit from 2 lousy parents more than one awesome parent. My personal opinion, when it comes to parents, is that 1 + 1 is a whole lot more than 2. This is off very limited once-every-two-weeks observations of a single child, so there is no science at all here, just gut feel. I got a glimpse of some of this during the ski trip when Brad was available to step up and help guide and lead, it made such a huge difference.
Now, let's rewind to just before I picked Cody up. I was in his apartment, talking to Patty, and she mentioned he has started eating salads now. I won't take all the credit for this, not having discussed it with Cody at all, but I do think that the meals we have shared which generally consist of salads for me and pizza for him, may be something he is picking up on. There is a definite follow-the-leader and lead-by-example factor with kids at this age, they look up to adults even if they aren't able to express that in words. I remember being the same way, a lot with my dad and my mom, and even with various other older kids and adults who demonstrated new ways of thinking and doing to me. So, if my influence is somehow contributing to Cody's eating habits drifting in a positive direction, that's a nice little reward for my efforts that I can tuck away in my pocket and feel good about.
But, back to the eggs. I spent most of the time with Cody preparing the eggs and colors and then cleaning up. I spent precious little time actually interacting with him. In retrospect, I should have bought everything and had the eggs boiled and colors tested and ready before I picked him up, but I selfishly went to Tim Miller's ashtanga class instead of doing my homework. The more obvious solution, the one that would solve this problem indefinitely, is the addition of a 2nd parental figure. Part of me wishes BBBS would allow 2 adults to 1 child interactions for this very reason.
With two parents actively involved in easter egg coloring with a child, one can manage the egg prep, color prep, cleanup, drying station, and basically all of the logistics. The other parent is then free to provide creative input to the child, instruct and assist them with blowing out the yolk for the eggs, suggesting creative ideas on color choices and patterns, half and half, stripes, spirals, etc. My limited observation is that children just don't self-teach out of pure curiosity very well because their perspective is often more limited than we realize as adults. It's sort of like how everyone thought the world was flat until Columbus took a risk to prove otherwise. Without a parent suggesting "hey, want to try it this way" the child is likely going to fall back into the known realm of making a big mess and not really understanding the experience, effectively the behavior patterns of a much younger version of the same child, well within the comfort zone. Now I'm not saying an 11 y/o needs to be an adult, but I am saying that if he or she wants to grow up by taking progressive steps, the influence of the actively involved adult is one of the most important pieces in that process.
I remember doing all sorts of things with masking tape, flowers and pantyhose with rubber bands, etc to make all sorts of crazy looking eggs when I was a kid. And I know I stopped doing that in high school, so I don't think I was much older than Cody when I reached peak egg dying intensity. I am sure I took it more seriously than most kids, as some sort of challenge that deserved my full attention and effort, and I'm not saying every moment has to be a silly indulgence into excessiveness. But I am saying that I needed inspiration and initial instruction before I knew what was possible. Once I was given that creative input, once I saw an older kid or parent coloring their egg with more skill than my own, I was then inspired to try new techniques.
I suppose I am also saying that I find the basic tasks of parenting, the logistical ones, to absorb so much of my time that the advanced tasks of parenting, the ones that matter the most, seem to be neglected. I suppose I give myself a failing grade on the encounter for that reason. Or maybe other parents just clean up while their kids are napping and prep before they wake up somehow, other parents give up their workouts and personal time for the sake of the child.
I'm not intending to rip on single parents here, but it makes me sad to think of how many kids don't have access to both of their parents at the same time. I know what it was like to have 2 actively involved parents at all times I think it was pretty damn awesome. I always had someone available to answer my questions, show me how to do something, or inspire me to think in different ways. I know I don't want to be a single dad, and yet I don't have any idea how to insure against that possibility because no union of consenting adults can come with terms which would eliminate the bailout option.
I find it all so fascinating, these things I took for granted about being a kid were actually privileges that many other kids did not have.