The other day, as my eldest son interrupted my conversation for the 4,587th time by tapping me incessantly and repeatedly saying “Mom! Mom! MOM! MOM!!, I snapped. Just a little. Ok, ok, somewhere between a little and a lot. As I explained to him for the 4,586th time that not every single thought or action needs parental acknowledgment, I was reminded of the old “if a tree falls in the forest” conundrum:
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear, does it make a sound?
I am not sure about the forest, but if I can tell you that if a tree fell in my house, there would be no doubt about the sound: there would 37 shouts of “Mom, the tree is going to fall!”, 91 instances of “Mom! The tree is falling!” and 203 exclamations of “Mom! The tree fell!”
A quick Google search led me to all sorts of philosophical riddles, Zen kōans, and Buddhist sayings, not to mention a few Confucius Say jokes (“Time flies like arrow; fruit flies like bananas…”). After getting sucked into a bounty of Buddhism and yes, guffawing at some awful, politically and linguistically incorrect jokes (“Man with hands in pockets feels foolish, but man with holes in pockets feels nuts”) I came to an important conclusion.
The people who came up with these riddles were not parents. I know this because if you have children, you know the answer to paradoxes like the tree riddle above. Any parent worth his or her salt will tell you without hesitation that a tree falling in a forest would most definitely make a sound because there is no such thing as silence when you have children. Ever, ever, ever.
What is the sound of one hand clapping? It is interchangeable with the sound of me using the toilet in private without interruption. As in, it is something only vaguely comprehensible in a theoretical way.
When you seek it, you cannot find it. Duh. Every parent knows that kids don’t actually look for the things they’ve misplaced. Despite my gentle suggestions, dire warnings and threats to staple the offending item to their shirt, my kids wander around lost in the haze of childhood whining “Mom! I can’t find it!
When walking, walk. When eating, eat. As in there is no need to dump every toy you own on the carpet in order to play with just one.
When you eat, the meal is yourself…which is why there are napkins and we have utensils. And opposable thumbs (but that’s a different post).
Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself. Just like shit, boredom happens. Not checking your Instagram account every ten minutes, watching 32 consecutive episodes of Kickin’ It or expecting me to entertain you is good for the soul. Your mind will grow. And unlike the grass, when your mind grows you don’t need to mow it.
Move and the way will open. The older my kids get, the more I worry that we have been raising them as Little Lord Fauntleroy and the Demanding Duke. ‘Move and the way will open’ sounds a lot nicer than “Are your legs broken???”
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. I’m sure I’ve told my kids two hundred thousand times to sneeze into their sleeve. They seem to forget every time. But if I aim a well-timed sneeze right in one of their faces just to prove a point, it just may stick with them….or at least the one who’s wiping spew off his forehead.
Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. Life is full of mundane tasks that need to get done all the livelong day. I don’t like doing them, nor do you. No one is above pitching in, and no one who is able to help should be allowed to opt out. Those who can, do, right? So suck it up, boys and make your bed and empty the dishwasher.
It’s been an educational afternoon.
I took a few philosophy courses in college. At exam time I would sometimes sit and have a blinding flash of understanding that would last as long as it took me to get my pencil to my notebook before it disappeared into the ether of confusion. Parenting isn’t much different. Just when you think you’ve got the knack of it, there’s a game changer that sends you right back to the beginning of the chapter. I think, therefore I am. For a few minutes today, I felt like a smarty-pants college student again. Until one of my kids started shouting “Mom! MOM! MOM!! Watch this!” for the 783rd time.
Newfound enlightenment in tow, I had to go and make sure there was not a tree lying felled in my dining room. After that?
After enlightenment, the laundry.