On Saturday, Isaac woke up grumpy. This was difficult to pick up on, unless you take into account all the shoving and whining. I believe these were his exact words: “I’m grumpy, angry, tired, and I’m craaaaankyyyy!”
It was a declarative battle cry.
Lately, when we’re not overcome with crankiness ourselves, Mary and I have been trying to help the kids ask for what they need, and take responsibility for getting what they need, when they have become small containers of rage. We have noticed they usually need some coaching.
“I’m proud of you for noticing that you’re grumpy, Isaac. I agree, you are. It seems like you need something. Do you know what it is?” I asked.
He jammed his thumb in his mouth about eight miles deep, shrugged, and issued a loud harrumph. I took that as a no.
“I’ll give you a choice,” I said. “It seems to me like you either need time alone in your room, or maybe one-on-one time with either mom or dad. What do you think?”
“Both,” he immediately decided.
So he went upstairs and played alone in his room for the next 20 minutes.
The truth was that I was a bit of a grump that morning, too; I had (mostly) just buried it under the weight of everything that had to get done (it was project day).
After cleaning up ground zero our kitchen after breakfast, I went up to Isaac’s room, and closed the door. We sat down with our backs against the wall, sunlight pouring into his room. He had noticeably calmed down.
“What do you want to do?” I asked.
“What do you want to do, dad?”
Isaac is a master Lego builder. The space ships he creates from scratch could win the Lego version of the Oscars. They’re really, really good. And my dirty little secret is that I love building Legos, too.
So I suggested that we build a space ship. He immediately agreed, and we went to it.
We had illegal amounts of fun. We traded ideas, he shot down a few poor ones of mine, and we slowly watched something take shape, which had no form or substance just a few minutes before. We watched it grow and become, issuing shouts of delight after a particularly well executed piece of Lego Genius. This is what we built:
When it was finally time to rejoin Mary and the rest of the crazies downstairs, Isaac asked, “How long have we been up here dad? Hours?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “That’s what happens when you’re having fun. You lose track of time.”
He smiled at me, and we took the space ship downstairs to show it to Mary and the other inmates boys, and we both felt like we had a re-do on the day.
Isaac helped me to see something: we both needed a little wonder to break into that get it done day.
Here’s the deal: we are human beings. We need beauty & art. We need to create things that didn’t exist five minutes ago. Then we need to look at what we just made, and we need to be delighted. But not because of what it can do. We need to delight in it simply because we made it.
And God saw what God had made, and it was good. God knows how to notice the wonder of a created thing. God delights in everything that God has made. Why wouldn’t we?
We need to stop and create. We need to notice our cranky state of mind, name it out loud in the presence of loved ones, and then do something that helps us remember that we were created for wonder and play and mystery.
Break out the Legos, the crayons, the paint, the metal, the laptop, the surfboard. Don’t worry about perfection; in fact, ruthlessly reject it. Just dive in and see what happens. The world needs it, you need it, and it’s time for us all to stop being such miserable grumps.
We need more delight. So what delights you? How can you spend more time doing that?
Who’s with me?