Last night saw the three boys - Kade, Kai and I - at home alone until the wee hours. After puttering around playing LARP games and checking on the two eggs we put in vinegar a couple of days ago, Kai asked Kade and I if we wanted to play Go. I have to admit, I had only a vague notion about what Go is. I think I played it once with my aunt and her first husband back about 30+ years ago, and all I remember is that it involved a big board and some stones. Of course, we don't have a Go board or any stones, so I wasn't sure how we would play. And, of course, it was well past midnight and my ability to put all of that together - not to mention learn one of those strategic "lifetime to master" games - was a bit hindered by the fact that my brain was beginning to shut down. But they both seemed so interested in playing. Trying to be supportive, but secretly hoping they would let me off the hook, I simply said:
"Sure. But I don't think we have a Go board and I don't know how to play."
That should work, right?
I mean, we really don't have a board, and it does take a while to learn. I expected that they would say something like "Yeah, you're right; let's do something else." What Kai actually said was much different:
"I've been reading about it, and I could teach you pretty fast. You and Kade could be on the same team and I could teach you both at the same time. And we could use . . . this Othello board instead of a Go board. It's not perfect, but it will do for now. Come on!"
I was struck by his energy, passion, and "can do" attitude - but I still had a question:
"Kai, have you ever played Go?"
"No", he said, "but I saw an anime about it and have been watching tournaments on YouTube. I know what I'm doing, Daddy."
And he got out the Othello board, sat us down, and taught us to play Go in exactly the way I would have taught someone brand new to the game - with plenty of examples, infinite patience, laughter, just the right amount of context, and helpful support and suggestions. Admittedly, I struggled with the game; games like Go, Othello, Connect Four, and Chess just do not come naturally to me. But I played as well as I could for as long as I could, until there were no more pieces and no more moves to make. Kade had long since moved on to something else, but Kai had a smile on his face of pure satisfaction, both with the time spent as well as his ability to teach me something new.
As I got up and went to the kitchen, I began to reflect on what had just happened. There were so many "lessons" I could take from that hour: kids are smarter than we think, self-directed learning works, or saying "yes" has power, for example. But what really stuck with me is the fact that where I saw obstacles - no board, no knowledge or skill, no experience - Kai saw only opportunity. He pursued what he wanted with no thought to what would make it harder, but with a creativity that enabled him to improvise solutions and design an argument based on rational facts to overcome my hesitation.
Largely in an effort to make a commitment to helping my children see possibilities instead of obstacles, I wrote a post a while back that included my own version of a parenting manifesto:
“I want you to be happy. I want you to see the world for all it can be. I want you to find the things you love to do and do them as much as you want. I want you to develop your own definition of success, and then pursue it like a dog on a bone. I want you to know that I will support and love you, even if you're down. And I have only one real expectation and hope - that you believe what I just said, and that you call bullshit on me when I deviate."
Last night, Kai reminded me in a glorious way about the power of possibility, and how obstacles often only exist when you view them as obstacles. Thank you, my love.