Sunday, November 4, 2007

I Never Would Have Thought of That...

One of the joys of parenthood is that things that you take for granted--because they've always been that way--are always new and different to your children, since they're experiencing it all for the first time. As a result, they occasionally see things--or say things--that you would never have thought of, but which--when pointed out--have a definite sort of internal logic to them.

To be sure, there are some things that every generation of kids figures out on their own. For example, we never actually taught our kids to separate their Oreo cookies and eat the filling first. And we never actually taught our kids to put pitted olives on all ten of their fingers at the same time. All kids who actually like Oreos and olives figure those things out on their own, even if no one shows them. They appear to be universal.

But occasionally a kid will have an insight that we adults miss, simply by virtue of the fact that we are adults and have already had the supposedly right way of doing things drilled into our brains from a very young age.

Here's one example. At the Pillowfight Fairy's birthday party, for one of the activities we had the kids decorating small pumpkins (mainly by putting googly eyes on them and having the kids paint them with glitter glue). Now, most of the pumpkins were pretty elaborate. The Fairy decided to go the minimalist route, with nothing more than two googly eyes and a blob of glitter glue for the nose:

Pretty straightforward, actually. A little minimalist, but she had other things on her mind that day. But the Adrenaline Junkie, who's not quite three, had a completely different way of looking at a pumpkin. After all, her last Halloween was when she hadn't yet turned two, and like most kids that age, doesn't have a really long memory about things. She probably didn't remember seeing a real, live jack-o-lantern. All she knew is that she was supposed to put a face on her little pumpkin, and that the big brown thing sticking out of the top of the pumpkin looked a little like a nose:

And I can honestly say, I've never actually thought about putting a face on a pumpkin in quite that orientation before. It makes perfect sense, in a way; after all, the kids were sitting on the ground while doing this, with the pumpkins on the ground in front of them, so the Junkie was looking down at the top of her pumpkin. Why would she think about putting a face on the side? It just seemed natural to her to do it this way. And as a result, she wound up making one of the most original jack-o-lantern faces I've seen in some time (with the possible exception of the young boy present who put one googly eye at the top of the stem and one at the base, making a jack-o-lantern much like what Picasso would have done).

(And no, I don't remember which kid it was. That whole day is one big blur in my memory. I hear this happens more as you get older....)

So here's another example. When I got up from my nap today and came in to the front room, the girls had obviously been playing, and I was presented with the following structure:

Basically, that's a toy phone (a hollow piece of plastic that amplifies your own voice and focuses it into your own ear) that's been set atop two orange caution cones.

My first thought was: I never would have thought to do that. I mean, when I'm playing with my kids I will occasionally stack toys so the kids can knock them down; and we have a set of blocks carved to look like castle wall pieces, so we will occasionally make medieval towns and fortresses with them. But I can honestly say I wouldn't have thought to use the phone as a structural member to join two cones like this. And I can't imagine any circumstances that might have prompted me to even think about making a structure like this. I never would have stopped to consider that the cones could be placed closely enough to allow the phone to connect the tops. I never would have stopped to consider that the cone tops were narrow enough to fit inside the ends of the phone.

Then, my second thought came: Cones are great devices for collecting and focusing sound. And I know from personal experience that the toy phone is really good at capturing the sound of your voice and directing it straight into your ear. (I have learned the hard way never never to yell into the thing). Soooo, putting these facts together, if someone under one cone made some noise--even a very soft one--another someone under the second cone would no doubt hear it very clearly. And then it dawned on me. One of my daughters has been trying to develop a working model of this:

So which of my daughters was it? I don't know. But more than that, I suspect that information is available only on a need-to-know basis, and I clearly don't need to know. They could tell me, but then they'd have to kill me--most likely, with this thing:

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